Pain and palliative medicine

J Rehabil Res Dev. 2007;44(2):279-94. doi: 10.1682/jrrd.2006.06.0067.


Severe pain is highly prevalent, with rates of 40% to 70% in patients with advanced cancer, liver disease, heart failure, human immunodeficiency virus, and renal failure. Wide variations in pain assessment and reporting methods and the measurement of multiple symptoms should be addressed in future studies. Regarding psychological approaches, determining whether hypnotherapy or other individual psychotherapeutic interventions reduce pain and/or psychological distress in a palliative care population is difficult. Interest is increasing in the concept of demoralization syndromes and the role of posttraumatic stress disorder in modulating responses to pain at the end of life. We review evidence from multiple studies that the use of rehabilitative therapy improves functional status and pain control among patients with advanced cancer, and we raise the possibility that rehabilitation therapy will be helpful in patients with other advanced diseases. We summarize ongoing clinical trials of electronic order sets, clinical care pathways, and care management pathways to improve pain management in palliative care. Wagner's Chronic Illness Model provides a way of analyzing how healthcare systems can be changed to provide adequate and continuing pain management in palliative care. Much work remains to ensure that pain is recognized, treated, and monitored effectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Critical Pathways*
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities