Identifying goals in patients with chronic pain: A European survey

Eur J Pain. 2021 Oct;25(9):1959-1970. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1814. Epub 2021 Jun 20.


Background: Chronic pain is a major healthcare issue that often requires an interdisciplinary treatment approach. Defining relevant treatment goals is one of the crucial steps in creating successful rehabilitation schemes. Therefore, the first aim was to explore goals that patients suffering from chronic pain aim to achieve. The second aim was to translate those goals into measurable functional outcome variables which can be used to measure treatment success.

Methods: An online survey was developed and spread through local pain alliances in six European countries. Participants, patients suffering from chronic pain, were asked to report their most important goals, combined with a rank to denote the importance of each goal. For the highest ranked goals, participants were asked to decompose their goal into functional postures and the number of minutes per posture to achieve this goal.

Results: We approached 1,494 persons, of which 487 effectively completed this survey. The highest ranked goals were taking part in family and social activities (72.55%), pain reduction (91.18%) and household tasks (68.14%). Obtaining pain reduction was most often ranked first (55.75%), followed by improving sleep (12.25%) and taking part in family or social activities (11.00%). For all goals, walking was a crucial component.

Conclusions: The goals of chronic pain patients are in line with previously explored expectations, denoting the importance of achieving pain relief combined with improvements on the level of activities and participation. This survey indicates that rehabilitation programs should definitely focus on improving walking ability, due to its importance in underpinning overall goal achievement.

Significance: Goals and expectations of chronic pain patients are in line with each other. Obtaining pain relief remains the highest ranked goal, however, goals on the level of activities and participation were also highly ranked. Walking seems to be the overall crucial component for goal achievement.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain* / therapy
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Pain Measurement
  • Surveys and Questionnaires