Psychosocial management of chronic pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: challenges and solutions

J Pain Res. 2016 Mar 14:9:137-46. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S83653. eCollection 2016.


There are numerous reviews and meta-analyses that confirm that psychological therapy is efficacious for patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in terms of managing pain. Therefore, the literature has moved on to answer additional questions: 1) What types of interventions are most strongly supported by the current evidence? 2) Do different patients benefit from different approaches? 3) When is it best to intervene? 4) What modalities are best for administering the intervention? 5) What model of care should we be proposing that will result in widespread implementation and will ensure access for patients with RA? This review concludes that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most efficacious treatment for pain management in RA; however, there are indications that mindfulness may have particular benefits for patients with a history of depression. CBT is most effective when administered early in the course of the disease. However, there is at present little evidence to confirm whether or not psychosocial interventions are effective for patients with comorbid psychological disorders. One of the major challenges is ensuring access to effective interventions for patients, particularly early on in the course of the disease, with a view to preventing physical and psychological morbidity. A stepped-care model is proposed; however, we urgently need more, better-quality trials of minimal interventions, particularly in Internet-delivered CBT, which appears promising and may form the cornerstone of future stepped-care models for providing psychosocial care to patients with RA.

Keywords: cognitive behavioral therapy; coping; pain; pain management; psychosocial; psychosocial treatment; psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review