The fear avoidance model of chronic pain: the next generation

G Crombez, Christopher Eccleston, S Van Damme, J W S Vlaeyen, P Karoly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

678 Citations (SciVal)


Objective: The fear-avoidance (FA) model of chronic pain describes how individuals experiencing acute pain may become trapped into a vicious circle of chronic disability and suffering. We propose to extend the FA model by adopting a motivational perspective on chronic pain and disability.

Methods: A narrative review.

Results: There is ample evidence to support the validity of the FA model as originally formulated. There are, however, some key challenges that call for a next generation of the FA model. First, the FA model has its roots in psychopathology, and investigators will have to find a way to account for findings that do not easily fit within such framework. Second, the FA model needs to address the dynamics and complexities of disability and functional recovery. Third, the FA model should incorporate the idea that pain-related fear and avoidance occurs in a context of multiple and often competing personal goals.

Discussion: To address these 3 key challenges, we argue that the next generation of the FA model needs to more explicitly adopt a motivational perspective, one that is built around the organizing powers of goals and self-regulatory processes. Using this framework, the FA model is recast as capturing the persistent but futile attempts to solve pain-related problems to protect and restore life goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-483
JournalThe Clinical Journal of Pain
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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