Pain in arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders: the role of coping skills training and exercise interventions

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1996 Oct;24(4):279-90. doi: 10.2519/jospt.1996.24.4.279.


There is growing recognition of the limitations of conventional, biomedical approaches to the management of pain in individuals having arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders. This article provides an overview of newly developed biopsychosocial approaches to the management of pain in this population. The presentation is divided into three sections. In the first section, a biopsychosocial model of pain is presented. This model highlights the role that biological factors (eg., disease severity, comorbid conditions), cognitive-behavioral factors (eg., thoughts, emotions, and behaviors), and environmental factors (eg., spouse or family responses to pain behavior) can play in influencing the pain experience. In the second section, we provide an overview of two newly developed treatment protocols based on the biopsychosocial model of pain: a pain coping skills training protocol and an exercise training protocol. Practical aspects of implementing these protocols are illustrated by highlighting how they are applied in the management of patients having persistent osteoarthritic pain. In the final section of the article, we pinpoint several important future directions for research in this area. Future studies need to explore the utility of combining pain coping skills and exercise training protocols. In addition, there is a need to identify variables that predict patients' response to biopsychosocial treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis / complications
  • Arthritis / physiopathology
  • Arthritis / rehabilitation*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / complications
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Pain, Intractable / complications
  • Pain, Intractable / physiopathology
  • Pain, Intractable / rehabilitation*
  • Prognosis