Psychological approaches to chronic pain management: Evidence and challenges

C. Eccleston, S.J. Morley, A.C. Williams

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Psychological interventions are a mainstay of modern pain management practice and a recommended feature of a modern pain treatment service. Systematic reviews for the evidence of psychological interventions are reviewed in this article. The evidence for effectiveness is strongest for cognitive behavioural therapy with a focus on cognitive coping strategies and behavioural rehearsal. Most evidence is available for treatments of adult pain, although adolescent chronic pain treatments are also reviewed. It is clear that treatment benefit can be achieved with cognitive behavioural methods. It is possible to effect change in pain, mood, and disability, changes not achieved by chance or by exposure to any other treatment. However, the overall effect sizes of treatments for adults, across all trials, are modest. Reasons for the relatively modest treatment effects are discussed within the context of all treatments for chronic pain being disappointing when measured by the average. Suggestions for improving both trials and evidence summaries are made. Finally, consideration is given to what can be achieved by the pain specialist without access to specialist psychology resource.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-63
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


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