A randomized clinical trial of targeted cognitive behavioral treatment to reduce catastrophizing in chronic headache sufferers

J Pain. 2007 Dec;8(12):938-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2007.06.010. Epub 2007 Aug 9.


This randomized clinical trial (RCT) examined the efficacy of a cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) specifically targeted toward reducing pain catastrophizing for persons with chronic headache. Immediate treatment groups were compared with wait-list control groups. Differential treatment gains based on the order of presentation of 2 components of CBT (cognitive restructuring and cognitive/behavioral coping) and the role of catastrophizing in treatment outcome were examined. Thirty-four participants enrolled in a 10-week group treatment and 11 completed a wait-list self-monitoring period. Participants reported significant reductions in catastrophizing and anxiety and increased self-efficacy compared with wait-list control subjects, and these were maintained at follow-up. Although we did not find overall differences in the reduction of headache frequency or intensity compared with wait-list control subjects, calculation of clinical significance on headache indicators suggest that approximately 50% of treated participants showed meaningful changes in headache indices as well. Order of treatment modules was not related to gains during treatment or at follow-up; however, almost all changes occurred during the second half of treatment, suggesting that duration of treatment participation is important.

Perspective: Cognitive-behavioral treatment targeting reduction of catastrophizing for chronic headache pain reduced negative cognitive and affective variables associated with recurrent headache, increased headache management self-efficacy, and in half of the participants, produced clinically meaningful reductions in headache indicators. Length of treatment is an important factor to consider when providing CBT for chronic pain.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Headache Disorders / psychology*
  • Headache Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Treatment Outcome