Researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System looked at data from 22 studies published between 1982 and 2003. Participants had low back pain for at least three months and the average duration was seven and a half years.
The researchers found that psychological interventions alone or combined with other care were better than standard treatments for pain-related outcomes. The largest and most consistent effect was in reducing the intensity of pain. The interventions uses included behavioral and cognitive-behavioral techniques; self-regulatory techniques such as hypnosis, biofeedback, and relaxation and counseling.
What was surprising was that interventions were originally developed to help patients live with their pain more successfully, not to actually reduce pain. An added benefit was an improvement in the health-related quality of life, work-related disability, and depression.
Dennis Turk, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology and pain research at the University of Washington in Seattle reports chronic pain patients don't always see the value of psychological treatments because they have been set up to expect a cure. Sometimes, cures just don't happen even when using the latest and greatest treatments. These interventions "are not cures, but they do reduce pain and improve function and they are important components in the treatment of people with chronic pain."
SOURCE: Health Psychology, 2007;26