Patient-centered perspective on treatment outcomes in chronic pain

Pain Med. 2010 Jan;11(1):6-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2009.00685.x. Epub 2009 Sep 1.


Objective: To define patient-determined success criteria for fibromyalgia and back pain treatment across four outcome domains: pain, fatigue, emotional distress, interference with daily activities.

Design: Retrospective correlational clinical sample design.

Setting: Tertiary care clinics at health science center.

Patients: 248 fibromyalgia patients and 52 back pain patients.

Interventions: N/A.

Outcome measures: Patient Centered Outcomes Questionnaire, measures of usual pain intensity and pain unpleasantness.

Results: Overall, for treatment to be considered successful, fibromyalgia patients required pain levels of 3.30 (54% reduction), fatigue levels of 3.08 (60% reduction), distress levels of 2.49 (60% reduction), and interference levels of 2.67 (63% reduction). Comparatively, back pain patients required pain levels of 2.23 (58% reduction), fatigue levels of 2.29 (57% reduction), distress levels of 1.65 (67% reduction), and interference levels of 1.81 (68% reduction). Overall, both fibromyalgia and back pain patients did not expect to meet their criteria for success.

Conclusions: Results highlight the importance of assessing the patient's view of successful outcome. Both fibromyalgia and back pain patients appear to have stringent criteria for success that existing treatments are often unlikely to meet. Comparison across groups indicated fibromyalgia patients have higher usual levels of pain, fatigue, distress, and interference. Interestingly, fibromyalgia patients also require greater changes across domains in order to consider treatment successful, despite rating higher levels of pain, fatigue, distress, and interference as successful. Recognizing patients' success criteria and treatment expectations encourages discussion and development of individualized treatment goals, and wider implementation of individualized treatment for chronic-pain populations is encouraged.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Back Pain / psychology
  • Back Pain / therapy
  • Chronic Disease
  • Employment
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Clinics
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome