University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Current psychological approaches to the management of chronic pain


Molton IR, Graham C, Stoelb BL, Jensen MP



Publication Info:

Current Opinion in Anaesthesiology, 20(5):485-486


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To provide a review of the rationale and evidence supporting three frequently used psychosocial interventions for chronic pain: cognitive-behavioral therapy, operant behavioral therapy and self-hypnosis training. We also review recent work in these areas, with an emphasis on the 2006 publishing year.
RECENT FINDINGS: Recent clinical trials and laboratory work continue to support the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy and operant behavioral therapy as adjunctive treatments for chronic pain. Notable areas of new research include a novel program of systematic exposure to pain-related fear (such as fear of reinjury) and the adaptation of cognitive-behavioral therapy for special pain groups (e.g. juveniles and those with pain secondary to physical disability). Regarding self-hypnosis training, recent work suggests that hypnosis can provide temporary pain relief to the majority of individuals with chronic pain and that a substantial minority of these patients experience a clinically significant reduction in baseline pain over time.
SUMMARY: Cognitive-behavioral therapy and operant behavioral therapy treatments focus on factors that exacerbate or maintain suffering in chronic pain, and should be considered as part of a multidisciplinary treatment paradigm. Self-hypnosis training may also be of benefit, although it appears to be no more (or less) effective than other relaxation strategies that include hypnotic elements.

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