Limitations of pharmacotherapy: behavioral approaches to chronic pain

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2007;(177):415-27. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-33823-9_15.


Pharmacotherapy is most appropriate in acute pain, whereas in chronic pain states behavioral approaches or a combination of behavioral treatment and pharmacotherapy is more appropriate. In this chapter we first describe the role of learning and memory as well as other psychological factors in the development of chronic pain and emphasize that chronic pain must viewed as the result of a learning process with resulting central neuroplastic changes. We then describe operant behavioral and cognitive-behavioral treatments as well as biofeedback and relaxation techniques and present innovative treatment procedures aimed at altering central pain memories. We complete the section with a discussion of combined behavioral and pharmacological approaches and an interdisciplinary view.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Biofeedback, Psychology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Memory / physiology
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*
  • Psychotherapy