Although there is anecdotal evidence for the psychoanalgesic properties of distraction, research evidence is equivocal. Drawing on the clinical and experimental studies of attention-based coping strategies for pain control, and the theoretically driven ‘cognitive’ models of the human attention system, two experiments are reported. Experiment One demonstrates that chronic pain patients suffering high intensity pain show significantly impaired performance on an attentionally demanding task when compared to low pain patients and normal controls. Experiment Two tests the hypothesis that the low intensity pain patients in Experiment One are coping with the dual demand of processing the pain and processing the task by switching quickly between these attentional demands. The results of both experiments are discussed in terms of the evidence for the analgesic properties attention based coping strategies with clinical pain populations and re-addresses the literature on coping with pain in terms of cognitive theories of attention.