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Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Psychosocial factors and adjustment to chronic pain in persons with physical disabilities: a systematic review


Jensen MP, Moore MR, Bockow TB, Ehde DM, Engel JM



Publication Info:

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 92(1):146-160


OBJECTIVE: To systematically review the research findings regarding the associations between psychosocial factors and adjustment to chronic pain in persons with physical disabilities. DATA SOURCES: A key word literature search was conducted using articles listed in PubMed, PsychInfo, and CINAHL up to March 2010, and manual searches were made of all retrieved articles to identify published articles that met the review inclusion criteria. STUDY SELECTION: To be included in the review, articles needed to (1) be written in English, (2) include adults with a physical disability who report having pain, (3) include at least 1 measure of a psychosocial predictor domain, (4) include at least 1 criterion measure of pain or patient functioning, and (5) report the results of associations between the psychosocial factors and criterion measures used in the study. Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria. DATA EXTRACTION: Three reviewers tabulated study details and findings. DATA SYNTHESIS: The disability groups studied included spinal cord injury (SCI), acquired amputation, cerebral palsy (CP), multiple sclerosis (MS), and muscular dystrophy (MD). Psychosocial factors were shown to be significantly associated with pain and dysfunction in all disability groups. The psychosocial factors most closely associated with pain and dysfunction across the samples included (1) catastrophizing cognitions; (2) task persistence, guarding, and resting coping responses; and (3) perceived social support and solicitous responding social factors. Pain-related beliefs were more strongly associated with pain and dysfunction in the SCI, CP, MS, and MD groups than in the acquired amputation group. CONCLUSIONS: The findings support the importance of psychosocial factors as significant predictors of pain and functioning in persons with physical disabilities. Clinical trials to test the efficacy of psychosocial treatments for pain and dysfunction are warranted, as are studies to determine whether psychosocial factors have a causal influence on pain and adjustment in these populations.

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