Work Type



Fall 2022

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Karin Steere DPT, PhD




BACKGROUND: The nature of chronic pain conditions is well documented, with systemic biological, psychological and social factors interacting in an emergent fashion. Autonomic nervous system dysregulation, reflected as decreased heart rate variability (HRV), is suggested to be a biomarker of systemic dysfunction. Previous research has demonstrated correlations between numerous chronic pain disorders and diminished HRV.

PURPOSE: To determine the relationship between pain and HRV in the acute phase of pain, and to examine the predictive value of psychosocial variables on HRV. This study is meant to enhance our sense of how early in the pain experience decreased HRV may occur.

METHODS: 94 subjects completed a survey on an iPad as HRV was collected through a Polar H10 chest strap. The Pain Catastrophization Scale and Injustice Experience Questionnaire were used to measure thoughts and behaviors regarding pain. Multiple linear regression was used to test if average pain intensity, total PCS and total IEQ scores were able to predict HRV.

RESULTS: The overall regression was not statistically significant (R2 = .037, p = .348) and none of the variables contributed significantly to the prediction model. Perceived injustice and catastrophizing demonstrated moderate correlation to each other but no other correlations were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite the correlations between diminished HRV and these variables in chronic pain, the relationship appears to be different in acute pain. The younger and more active characteristics of this sample may be influencing HRV, along with the mechanical nature of the musculoskeletal injuries.


University of Puget Sound