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Psychological therapies for the management of chronic pain

Authors Sturgeon J

Received 5 February 2014

Accepted for publication 5 March 2014

Published 10 April 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 115—124

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S44762

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


John A Sturgeon

Department of Anesthesiology, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA

Abstract: Pain is a complex stressor that presents a significant challenge to most aspects of functioning and contributes to substantial physical, psychological, occupational, and financial cost, particularly in its chronic form. As medical intervention frequently cannot resolve pain completely, there is a need for management approaches to chronic pain, including psychological intervention. Psychotherapy for chronic pain primarily targets improvements in physical, emotional, social, and occupational functioning rather than focusing on resolution of pain itself. However, psychological therapies for chronic pain differ in their scope, duration, and goals, and thus show distinct patterns of treatment efficacy. These therapies fall into four categories: operant-behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. The current article explores the theoretical distinctiveness, therapeutic targets, and effectiveness of these approaches as well as mechanisms and individual differences that factor into treatment response and pain-related dysfunction and distress. Implications for future research, dissemination of treatment, and the integration of psychological principles with other treatment modalities are also discussed.

Keywords: pain management, multidisciplinary pain treatment, psychological therapy

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