Social pain and physical pain: shared paths to resilience

Pain Manag. 2016;6(1):63-74. doi: 10.2217/pmt.15.56. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Although clinical models have traditionally defined pain by its consequences for the behavior and internal states of the sufferer, recent evidence has highlighted the importance of examining pain in the context of the broader social environment. Neuroscience research has highlighted commonalities of neural pathways connecting the experience of physical and social pain, suggesting a substantial overlap between these phenomena. Further, interpersonal ties, support and aspects of the social environment can impair or promote effective adaptation to chronic pain through changes in pain perception, coping and emotional states. The current paper reviews the role of social factors in extant psychological interventions for chronic pain, and discusses how greater attention to these factors may inform future research and clinical care.

Keywords: chronic pain; negative emotions; pain coping; pain perception; positive emotions; psychological interventions; resilience; social pain; social support.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Caregivers
  • Chronic Pain / psychology*
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Support