When psychologists began developing treatments for chronic pain several decades ago, the goal was to help patients live with their pain more successfully.

Now we find it can reduce their level of pain.

Dr. Robert Kerns of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System evaluated 22 studies of adults with low back pain (unrelated to cancer). The average duration of pain was seven and a half years.

The studies were not limited to any one psychological approach. They included behavioral and cognitive-behavioral techniques; and self-regulatory techniques such as hypnosis, biofeedback, and relaxation; and supportive counseling.

When the response to these treatments was compared to no treatment, the largest and most consistent benefit was a reduction in pain intensity. Other benefits included improved health-related quality of life, work-related disability, interference of pain with daily living, and depression.

“Even the latest and greatest treatments don’t cure people with chronic pain,” Dr. Kerns said. “Psychological 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.”

Now we have to convince insurance companies to pay for them.

12/26/06 21:14 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.