This article provides an overview of current research on psychological aspects of persistent pain. It is divided into 3 sections. In section 1, recent studies are reviewed that provide evidence that psychological factors are related to adjustment to persistent pain. This section addresses research on factors associated with increased pain and poorer adjustment to pain (ie, pain catastrophizing, pain-related anxiety and fear of pain, and helplessness) and factors associated with decreased pain and improved adjustment to pain (ie, self-efficacy, pain coping strategies, readiness to change, and acceptance). In section 2, we review recent research on behavioral and psychosocial interventions for patients with persistent pain. Topics addressed include early intervention, tailoring treatment, telephone/Internet-based treatment, caregiver-assisted treatment, and exposure-based protocols. In section 3, we conclude with a general discussion that highlights steps needed to advance this area of research including developing more comprehensive and integrative conceptual models, increasing attention to the social context of pain, examining the link of psychological factors to pain-related brain activation patterns, and investigating the mechanisms underlying the efficacy of psychological treatments for pain.
Perspective: This is one of several invited commentaries to appear in The Journal of Pain in recognition of The Decade of Pain Research. This article provides an overview of current research on psychological aspects of persistent pain, and highlights steps needed to advance this area of research.
Copyright 2004 American Pain Society