Multidisciplinary treatment for chronic pain: a systematic review of interventions and outcomes

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2008 May;47(5):670-8. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/ken021. Epub 2008 Mar 27.


Objectives: To provide an overview of the effectiveness of multidisciplinary treatments of chronic pain and investigate about their differential effects on outcome in various pain conditions and of different multidisciplinary treatments, settings or durations.

Methods: In this article, the authors performed a systematic review of all currently available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) fulfilling the inclusion criteria, by using a recently developed rating system aimed to assess the strength of evidence with regard to the methodological quality of the trials.

Results: Compared with other non-disciplinary treatments, moderate evidence of higher effectiveness for multidisciplinary interventions was shown. In contrast to no treatment or standard medical treatment, strong evidence was detected in favour of multidisciplinary treatments. The evidence that comprehensive inpatient programmes were more beneficial that outpatient programmes was moderate. Fibromyalgia and chronic back pain patients tended to profit more substantially than patients with diverse origins or chronic pain diagnoses. No evidence was found that treatment variables, such as duration or programme components, were influential for the success of the intervention.

Conclusion: A standard of multidisciplinary programmes should be internationally established to guarantee generally good outcomes in the treatment of chronic pain. Our results highlight the lack of quality of design, execution or reporting of many of the RCTs included in this article. Future studies should more specifically focus on differential effects of treatment components and patient variables, allowing the identification of subgroups, which most probably would profit from multidisciplinary pain programmes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Quality of Life