The assumption that individuals are capable of accurately recalling past painful experiences has been a fundamental tenet of a number of cognitive–behavioral theories of pain, including the gate control theory. However, there has been very little research on the topic in the past, and the results have often been contradictory. A general conclusion that can be drawn is that memory for pain is variable, and there is need to identify what factors contribute to this variability in memory for pain. The current study examined the relation of catastrophizing to the recall of persistent pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Participants in this study were 45 individuals with persistent pain due to rheumatoid arthritis. Each participant was asked to complete a daily pain diary for a period of 30 days. Participants were subsequently asked to recall the pain they experienced over the entire period of time rather than provide a single, average rating.
The results of a series of hierarchical regression analyses indicated that level of catastrophizing was related to the recall of both pain intensity and pain variability. This relation was statistically significant even after controlling for actual pain and variability and other background variables.
Participants who scored higher on catastrophizing demonstrated better accuracy in the recall of general pain intensity and pattern over a 30-day diary period. The results of the study are discussed in terms of future studies as well as their potential clinical importance.