Forgetting pain is easier than you think

Jacqueline McKechnie, Eric E. Brodie

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Objectives: To compare cued and uncued recall of pain events in the last year.
Methods: An experimental design was utilised with one between subject factor (gender) and two within subject factors (cued and uncued recall). 100 females and 45 males (mean age 40.66 years) indicated the different pains they had experienced over the last year, with and without a cue.
Results: Repeated measures analysis of variance demonstrated a main effect for cuing [F (1,143) = 154.831, p < 0.001] with more pain events recalled when cued. There was a main effect for intensity [F (1,143) = 21.154, p = 0.002] as less pain events were recalled as intensity increased. There was an interaction between cuing and intensity [F (1,143) = 15.937, p < 0.001] where there was no significant difference in the uncued condition, but in the cued condition there were more pain events recalled in the less intense pain categories. Providing a cue almost doubled the total number of recalled pain events from 318 to 623 and this can be broken down into individual pain syndromes. The incidence of headache increased from 55 to 112; earache from 4 to 24; migraine from 13 to 29; menstrual pain from 27 to 62; dental pain from 23 to 58; backache from 40 to 81; burns from 5 to 41 and tissue injuries from 49 to 99. One participant forgot an experience of labour pain, rated at 95 (on a 100mm visual analogue scale), until this was cued. However, there were pains which were not as affected by the provision of a cue such as fracture and ‘other’.
Conclusions: Cuing made a significant difference to recall of pain. More pain events were recalled when a cue was provided than when uncued. This could have important implications in the health setting. Allowing a patient to have free recall will lead to significantly less painful memories being recalled than if a cue is provided. In order to improve the accuracy of recall, it is suggested that a cue should be provided which is specific and meaningful for the patient as this will help to stimulate episodic recall of pain.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2006


  • cued pain
  • uncued pain
  • forgetting pain
  • pain


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