Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (1179612)

Clipboard (0)

Related Articles

1.  Rorschach Measures of Cognition Relate to Everyday and Social Functioning in Schizophrenia 
Psychological assessment  2012;25(1):253-263.
Neurocognitive impairment and negative symptoms contribute to functional disability in people with schizophrenia. Yet, a high level of unexplained variability remains after accounting for the role of these factors. This study examined the role of thought disorder, psychological complexity, and interpersonal representations, as measured by the Rorschach, in explaining functional and social skills capacity in 72 middle-aged and older outpatients with schizophrenia (mean age = 51.2). Participants responded to the Rorschach administered using the R-Optimized administration instructions and scored using the Rorschach Performance Assessment System. Relationships with neuropsychological performance and psychopathology were also explored. Psychological complexity, which refers to a person’s cognitive capacity for problem-solving and organizing their surroundings, was correlated with functional capacity (r = .30) and social skills capacity (r = .34). Healthy interpersonal representations were correlated with positive social skills (r’s = .24 to .28). In multiple regression models, psychological complexity accounted for significant variation in functional (β = 0.23, p = 0.02) and social skills capacity (β = 0.35, p < 0.01) after controlling for neurocognitive functioning and psychopathology. These data suggest that psychological complexity plays a significant role in the functional limitations seen in schizophrenia, above and beyond the contributions of neurocognitive impairment and negative symptoms. Support was also found for the impact of healthy object relations functioning with social functioning. Clinical implications include novel information for future development of cognitive remediation treatment strategies based on a patient’s developmental level of psychological capacity and healthy interpersonal schemas.
PMCID: PMC3578027  PMID: 23148650
functional capacity; Rorschach Performance Assessment System; thought disorder; psychological complexity; interpersonal representations
2.  Differences between bipolar and unipolar depression on Rorschach testing 
The bipolar-unipolar distinction in patients with a major depressive episode is the most important issue related to the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders, but remains unresolved. This study was undertaken to compare bipolar and unipolar depression on Rorschach testing using the Comprehensive System with reference to healthy Japanese controls.
Patients with bipolar or unipolar depression who had undergone the Rorschach test for routine clinical purposes were followed up naturalistically for a long period. Based on diagnostic confirmation after long-term follow-up, scores on this test for patients with bipolar and unipolar depression were compared with those published elsewhere for healthy Japanese controls.
The bipolar depression group showed significantly higher scores or positive findings in five variables of the Rorschach test, ie, WSum6, DR2 > 0, (CF + C) > FC + 2, PureC > 1, and Populars > 7, as assessed using the Comprehensive System, than did the unipolar depression group and healthy controls. These scores did not differ between the unipolar depression and control groups.
The results of this study show thought disorder or cognitive slippage and marked laxness in modulating emotion in bipolar depression, indicating the psychopathological characteristics of bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC3653755  PMID: 23682214
bipolar depression; bipolar disorder; Rorschach test; thought disorder; unipolar depression
3.  Chronic daily headache: a Rorschach study 
The Journal of Headache and Pain  2000;1(Suppl 1):S57-S60.
The aim of this study was to describe the distinctive personality traits and their interest to the development of a chronic form of headache, by means of the Rorschach test, a projective approach, in an automated version compiled by a trained system (PRALP3). This study did not show the existence of a pathological structure in the chronic headache sufferer personality (in the psychiatric sense of the word). The most important finding is the admission that both neurosis associated with anxious-depressive elements and inhibited emotional overflowing are important factors in the genesis of chronic daily headache. This study does not exclude that other factors different from personality traits may also play a pathogenetic role in headache worsening. In other words, the development of chronic daily headache may be a patterned or learned response generated by the brain in relation to multiple inciting causes (stress, drug abuse) or individual predisposition (personality traits).
PMCID: PMC3611801
Key words Rorschach; Chronic daily headache; Abuse; Personality traits
4.  The personality profile and alexithymic syndrome in primary headache: a Rorschach study 
The aim our work was to study the personality profile and alexithymic syndrome (based on the analysis of seven specific markers) of primary headache patients through the Rorschach test. 240 headache patients all drawn from Headache Centre of Neurological Science Institute of Neurological Science Institute of the Second University of Naples, in the period 1995–1998, were the sample studied. 30 (6 women) were affected by cluster headache; 32 (22 women) by migraine with aura; 66 (32 women) by tension-type headache. 60 subjects (34 women) formed the control group. There was no sigificant difference (p>0.05) between groups for age and education, and to all subjects the tests were administered in interval periods by two different examinators. All patients with organic illness or known psychatric illness were excluded by the present study. The results obtained have been transformed into numeric terms and then into data to be utilized for frequency index, description and statistical analysis (t test). The results show an uniformity of alexithymic characteristics in various headache groups, with a short margin of variability. Besides, the headache patients showed a marked restriction in fantasy, with concrete and stereo-typic thought, poor adaptive emotional responsiveness, and lack of relational mechanisms and adaptability to millieu. The analysis of the results supports the following observations: (1) despite of little differences in some specific parameters or personality sectors, headache subjects appear to be quite homogeneous in perceptual and processing style, affectivity and adaptive resources; (2) these data are similar to what has been found in psychosomatic illness; (3) independently of neuropsychological, neuroanatomical and functional substratum of these behaviours, a psychotherapeutic approach to headache can be useful in addition to common pharmacological therapy; and (4) data expressed by the analysis of Rorschach parameters certainly exclude an analytical-type psychotherapeutic approach, on the contrary, behavioural approach techniques appear to be more useful in that they facilitate and improve experience control and self-regulation.
PMCID: PMC3611828
Key words Headache; Personality; Alexithymia; Rorschach
5.  The efficacy of a multidisciplinary group program for patients with refractory chronic pain 
Comprehensive programs for chronic pain management provided at multidisciplinary clinics have been shown to be successful in Western countries. However, similar results have not yet been reported in Japan, and it is unclear whether these results are applicable to the Japanese culture. Accordingly, the authors report the results of the ‘Chronic Pain Class’, a program initiated at a multidisciplinary pain centre in Nagakute, Japan.
Chronic pain is a major problem because it can result in not only a reduction in activities of daily living and quality of life but also requires initiation of social assistance. Seeking only to eliminate pain itself would appear to be too narrow an objective, in addition to often being unachievable; therefore, a multifaceted, comprehensive approach with multiple objectives is needed.
To describe the effects of a program (the ‘Chronic Pain Class’) offering cognitive behavioural therapy to small groups of individuals with refractory chronic pain in Japan. Exercise was an important feature of the program.
A total of 46 patients who were experiencing treatment difficulties and decreased activity participated in the program. The programs were conducted in groups of five to seven patients who met weekly for nine weeks. Weekly sessions, which were approximately 2 h in duration, combined lectures with exercise. Several measures related to pain and physical function were administered at the beginning and the conclusion of the program.
Nine patients dropped out during the program. A number of measures (eg, pain intensity, disability, catastrophizing thoughts) showed significant improvements after intervention (P<0.002 after Bonferroni correction). Furthermore, most measures of physical function showed substantial improvement, especially seated forward bends, zig-zag walking, self-care and 6 min walk test (P<0.001).
The results of the present study provide evidence that a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and exercise should be recommended to patients with refractory chronic pain.
PMCID: PMC4273708  PMID: 24992454
Chronic pain; Cognitive behavioural; Disability; Multidisciplinary; Physical functioning
6.  Spinal Cord Stimulation for Neuropathic Pain 
Executive Summary
The objective of this health technology policy assessment was to determine the effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) to manage chronic intractable neuropathic pain and to evaluate the adverse events and Ontario-specific economic profile of this technology.
Clinical Need
SCS is a reversible pain therapy that uses low-voltage electrical pulses to manage chronic, intractable neuropathic pain of the trunk or limbs. Neuropathic pain begins or is caused by damage or dysfunction to the nervous system and can be difficult to manage.
The prevalence of neuropathic pain has been estimated at about 1.5% of the population in the United States and 1% of the population in the United Kingdom. These prevalence rates are generalizable to Canada.
Neuropathic pain is extremely difficult to manage. People with symptoms that persist for at least 6 months or who have symptoms that last longer than expected for tissue healing or resolution of an underlying disease are considered to have chronic pain. Chronic pain is an emotional, social, and economic burden for those living with it. Depression, reduced quality of life (QOL), absenteeism from work, and a lower household income are positively correlated with chronic pain.
Although the actual number is unknown, a proportion of people with chronic neuropathic pain fail to obtain pain relief from pharmacological therapies despite adequate and reasonable efforts to use them. These people are said to have intractable neuropathic pain, and they are the target population for SCS.
The most common indication for SCS in North America is chronic intractable neuropathic pain due to failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), a term that describes persistent leg or back and leg pain in patients who have had back or spine surgery. Neuropathic pain due to complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), which can develop in the distal aspect of a limb a minor injury, is another common indication. To a lesser extent, chronic intractable pain of postherpetic neuralgia, which is a persistent burning pain and hyperesthesia along the distribution of a cutaneous nerve after an attack of herpes zoster, is also managed with SCS.
For each condition, SCS is considered as a pain management therapy only after conventional pain therapies, including pharmacological, nonpharmacological, and surgical treatments, if applicable, have been attempted and have failed.
The Technology
The SCS technology consists of 3 implantable components: a pulse generator, an extension cable, and a lead (a small wire). The pulse generator is the power source for the spinal cord stimulator. It generates low-voltage electrical pulses. The extension cable connects the pulse generator to the lead. The lead is a small, insulated wire that has a set of electrodes at one end. The lead is placed into the epidural space on the posterior aspect of the spinal cord, and the electrodes are positioned at the level of the nerve roots innervating the painful area. An electrical current from the electrodes induces a paresthesia, or a tingling sensation that masks the pain.
Before SCS is initiated, candidates must have psychological testing to rule out major psychological illness, drug habituation, and issues of secondary gain that can negatively influence the success of the therapy. Successful candidates will have a SCS test stimulation period (trial period) to assess their responsiveness to SCS. The test stimulation takes about 1 week to complete, and candidates who obtain at least 50% pain relief during this period are deemed suitable to receive a permanent implantation of a spinal cord stimulator
Review Strategy
The Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) reviewed all published health technology assessments of spinal cord stimulation. Following this, a literature search was conducted from 2000 to January, 2005 and a systematic review of the literature was completed. The primary outcome for the systematic review was pain relief. Secondary outcomes included functional status and quality of life. After applying the predetermined inclusion and exclusion criteria, 2 randomized controlled trials (MAS level 2 evidence), and 2 prospective non-randomized controlled trials with a before-and-after-treatment study design (MAS level 3a evidence) were retrieved and reviewed.
Summary of Findings
The authors of 6 health technology assessments concluded that evidence exists to support the effectiveness of SCS to decrease pain in various neuropathic pain syndromes. However, the quality of this evidence varied among reports from weak to moderate.
The systematic review completed by MAS found high quality level 2 evidence that SCS decreases pain and level 3a evidence that it improves functional status and quality of life in some people with neuropathic pain conditions. The rate of technical failures was approximately 11%, which included electrode lead migration and/or malposition. Procedural complications included infection and dural puncture; each occurred at a rate of 1.2%.
SCS may be considered for patients with chronic, neuropathic pain for whom standard pain treatments have failed and when there is no indication for surgical intervention to treat the underlying condition.
PMCID: PMC3382299  PMID: 23074473
7.  A comparison of cognitive-behavioral couple therapy and lidocaine in the treatment of provoked vestibulodynia: study protocol for a randomized clinical trial 
Trials  2014;15:506.
Provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), a frequent form of chronic genital pain, is associated with decreased sexual function for afflicted women, as well as impoverished sexual satisfaction for women and their partners. Pain and sexuality outcomes for couples with PVD are influenced by interpersonal factors, such as pain catastrophizing, partner responses to pain, ambivalence over emotional expression, attachment style and perceived relationship and sexual intimacy. Despite recommendations in the literature to include the partner in cognitive-behavioral therapy targeted at improving pain and sexuality outcomes, no randomized clinical trial has tested the efficacy of this type of intervention and compared it to a first-line medical intervention.
This bi-center, randomized clinical trial is designed to examine the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral couple therapy compared to topical lidocaine. It is conducted across two Canadian university-hospital centers. Eligible women diagnosed with PVD and their partners are randomized to one of the two interventions. Evaluations are conducted using structured interviews and validated self-report measures at three time points: Pre-treatment (T1: prior to randomization), post-treatment (T2), and 6-month follow-up (T3). The primary outcome is the change in reported pain during intercourse between T1 and T2. Secondary outcomes focus on whether there are significant differences between the two treatments at T2 and T3 on (a) the multidimensional aspects of women’s pain and (b) women and partners’ sexuality (sexual function and satisfaction), psychological adjustment (anxiety, depression, catastrophizing, self-efficacy, and quality of life), relationship factors (partner responses and dyadic adjustment) and self-reported improvement and treatment satisfaction. In order to detect an effect size as small as 0.32 for secondary outcomes, a sample of 170 couples is being recruited (27% dropout expected). A clinically significant decrease in pain is defined as a 30% reduction.
The randomized clinical trial design is the most appropriate to examine the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral couple therapy, a recently developed and pilot-tested psychosocial intervention for couples coping with PVD, in comparison to a frequent first-line treatment option, topical lidocaine. Findings from this study will provide important information about empirically supported treatment options for PVD, and inform future treatment development and research for this patient population.
Trial registration NCT01935063; registration date: 27 August 27 2013.
PMCID: PMC4307632  PMID: 25540035
Randomized clinical trial; Vulvodynia; Cognitive-behavioral therapy; Topical lidocaine; Chronic pain; Women’s sexual health; Sexual function; Couple therapy; Treatment outcome; Dyspareunia
8.  iCanCope with Pain™: User-centred design of a web- and mobile-based self-management program for youth with chronic pain based on identified health care needs 
Chronic pain self-management involves providing patients with knowledge, coping strategies and social support that help them to manage their pain. This type of intervention has been shown to be useful in treating chronic pain; however, many eligible chronic pain patients never receive such treatment due to limited accessibility and high cost. The use of Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy has the potential to change this. In this study, the authors report their progress in the development of an Internet- and smartphone-based application for chronic pain self-management.
While there are emerging web-based self-management programs for children and adolescents with chronic pain, there is currently not an integrated web- and smartphone-based app that specifically addresses the needs of adolescents with chronic pain.
To conduct a needs assessment to inform the development of an online chronic pain self-management program for adolescents, called iCanCope with Pain™.
A purposive sample of adolescents (n=23; 14 to 18 years of age) was recruited from two pediatric chronic pain clinics in Ontario. Interdisciplinary health care providers were also recruited from these sites. Three focus groups were conducted with adolescents (n=16) and one with pediatric health care providers (n=7). Individual adolescent interviews were also conducted (n=7).
Qualitative analysis uncovered four major themes: pain impact; barriers to care; pain management strategies; and transition to adult care. Pain impacted social, emotional, physical and role functioning, as well as future goals. Barriers to care were revealed at the health care system, patient and societal levels. Pain management strategies included support systems, and pharmacological, physical and psychological approaches. Transition subthemes were: disconnect between pediatric and adult systems; skills development; parental role; and fear/anxiety. Based on these identified needs, the iCanCope with Pain™ architecture will include the core theory-based functionalities of: symptom self-monitoring; personalized goal setting; pain coping skills training; peer-based social support; and chronic pain education.
The proposed iCanCope with Pain™ program aims to address the self-management needs of adolescents with chronic pain by improving access to disease information, strategies to manage symptoms and social support.
PMCID: PMC4197753  PMID: 25000507
Adolescent; Chronic pain; E-health; Mobile-health; Needs assessment; Self-management
9.  Manual Physical Therapists' Use of Biopsychosocial History Taking in the Management of Patients with Back or Neck Pain in Clinical Practice 
The Scientific World Journal  2015;2015:170463.
Objective. To develop and evaluate process indicators relevant to biopsychosocial history taking in patients with chronic back and neck pain. Methods. The SCEBS method, covering the Somatic, Psychological (Cognition, Emotion, and Behavior), and Social dimensions of chronic pain, was used to evaluate biopsychosocial history taking by manual physical therapists (MPTs). In Phase I, process indicators were developed while in Phase II indicators were tested in practice. Results. Literature-based recommendations were transformed into 51 process indicators. Twenty MTPs contributed 108 patient audio recordings. History taking was excellent (98.3%) for the Somatic dimension, very inadequate for Cognition (43.1%) and Behavior (38.3%), weak (27.8%) for Emotion, and low (18.2%) for the Social dimension. MTPs estimated their coverage of the Somatic dimension as excellent (100%), as adequate for Cognition, Emotion, and Behavior (60.1%), and as very inadequate for the Social dimension (39.8%). Conclusion. MTPs perform screening for musculoskeletal pain mainly through the use of somatic dimension of (chronic) pain. Psychological and social dimensions of chronic pain were inadequately covered by MPTs. Furthermore, a substantial discrepancy between actual and self-estimated use of biopsychosocial history taking was noted. We strongly recommend full implementation of the SCEBS method in educational programs in manual physical therapy.
PMCID: PMC4402195  PMID: 25945358
10.  Theory of Mind and Emotional Functioning in Fibromyalgia Syndrome: An Investigation of the Relationship between Social Cognition and Executive Function 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0116542.
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a syndrome primarily characterised by chronic, widespread musculoskeletal pain. In the aetiology of this syndrome a crucial role is played by complex interactions among biological, genetic, psychological, and socio-cultural factors. Recently, researchers have started to explore emotional functioning in FM, with their attention focused on alexithymia, a personality construct that affects the regulation of a person’s own emotions. On the other hand, the detection and experience of emotional signals from other people have only been sparsely investigated in FM syndrome and no studies have investigated the ability to represent other people’s mental states (i.e. Theory of Mind, ToM) in these patients. Here we present the first study investigating a large set of social-cognitive abilities, and the possible relationships between these abilities and the performance on executive-function tasks, in a homogenous sample of patients with FM.
Forty women with FM and forty-one healthy women matched for education and age were involved in the study. Social cognition was assessed with a set of validated experimental tasks. Measures of executive function were used to test the correlations between this dimension and the social-cognitive profile of patients with FM. Relationships between social-cognitive abilities and demographic, clinical and psychological variables were also investigated.
Principal Findings
Patients with FM have impairments both in the regulation of their own affect and in the recognition of other’s emotions, as well as in representing other people’s mental states. No significant correlations were found between social cognition tasks and the subcomponents of the executive function that were analysed.
The results show the presence of several impairments in social cognition skills in patients with FM, which are largely independent of both executive function deficits and symptoms of psychological distress. The impairments reported highlight the importance of adequately assessing ToM and emotional functioning in clinical practice.
PMCID: PMC4296933  PMID: 25594169
11.  Retrospective Review of Outcomes of a Multimodal Chronic Pain Service in a Major Teaching Hospital: A Preliminary Experience in Universiti Sains Malaysia 
Chronic pain is a common medical issue. Beside chronic devastating pain, patients also suffer dysfunction more generally, including in the physical, emotional, social, recreational, vocational, financial, and legal spheres. Integrated multidisciplinary and multimodal chronic pain management programmes offer clear evidence for relief of suffering and return to functional lifestyles.
Materials and Methods:
This retrospective review was performed in order to evaluate one-year outcomes among all newly referred patients of the multimodal chronic pain service at Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM). All patients received multimodal pain therapy, including pharmacological, physical, and psychological therapy, exercise, and pain intervention. The variables evaluated were based on a patient’s global pain assessments, which were made using the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), modified by patient self-report, and were taken within days to months of commencing our multimodal pain regime.
A total of 169 patients were enrolled in this study. Out of this number, 102 (60.4%) were seen at the pain clinic, and 67 (39.6%) were referred while they were inpatients. About one-third of the patients had chronic pain due to cancer. Our data showed that 128 (75.7%) of our chronic pain patients were successfully managed when ≥50% of pain relief (as measured by their VAS score) was achieved at any point during the course of the study period. In addition, 104 patients (61.5%) showed improvement in their modified ODI by 50% or more.
A multimodal chronic pain service plays a significant role in managing chronic pain patients in a major hospital, as it is capable of delivering comprehensive and attainable care to manage refractory and intractable chronic pain.
PMCID: PMC3216138  PMID: 22135513
chronic pain service; visual analogue scale; modified Oswestry Disability Index; multimodal pain therapy; multidisciplinary pain management; medical sciences
12.  Multi-modal examination of psychological and interpersonal distinctions among MPI coping clusters: A preliminary study 
The Multidimensional Pain Inventory (MPI) is a widely used instrument to characterize distinct psychosocial subgroups of patients with chronic pain: Adaptive (AC), Dysfunctional (DYS), and Interpersonally Distressed (ID). To date, several questions remain about the validity and distinctiveness of the patient clusters and continued scientific attention has strongly been recommended. It is unclear if AC patients experience better adjustment or merely present themselves favorably. Moreover, differences in psychological distress and interpersonal relations between DYS and ID patients are equivocal. The present study is the first to utilize comprehensive informant ratings to extend prior validity research on the MPI. We employed a multi-modal methodology consisting of patient self-report, parallel informant ratings, and behavioral measures. Ninety-nine patients with chronic pain, their partners, and providers participated. They completed measures of patients’ psychological distress and social relations. We also systematically observed patients’ pain behavior. Results provided strong support for the validity of the AC cluster in that patients’ positive adaptation was reliably corroborated by informants. The differentiating characteristics between the two maladaptive clusters, however, remain elusive. We found evidence that DYS patients’ distress appeared to be illness-specific rather than generalized; however, both clusters were equally associated with social distress and partner caregiver burden.
PMCID: PMC2818051  PMID: 19783221
pain; interpersonal; coping; validity; adaptation; proxy; assessment
13.  Comparative evaluation of group-based mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment and management of chronic pain disorders: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis with indirect comparisons 
Systematic Reviews  2014;3:134.
Chronic pain disorders impact the physical, psychological, social, and financial well-being of between 10%–30% of Canadians. The primary aims of psychological interventions targeting chronic pain disorders are to reduce patients’ pain-related disability and to improve their quality of life. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the prevailing treatment for chronic pain, however mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has displayed promise as an alternative treatment option. The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis is to compare MBSR to CBT in their relative ability to reduce pain-related disability and intensity, to alleviate emotional distress, and to improve global functioning in chronic pain patients.
We will conduct a systematic review with meta-analyses to compare MBSR to CBT in the treatment of chronic pain disorders in adults. We will report our review according to the recommendations provided by the PRISMA statement. Randomized studies will be included and the literature search will comprise Ovid MEDLINE®, Ovid MEDLINE® In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, Embase Classic + Embase, PsycINFO, the Cochrane Library on Wiley, including CENTRAL, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, DARE, and HTA. Study selection and data extraction will be conducted by independent investigators and in duplicate. Outcomes of interest will include pain interference, pain intensity, emotional functioning, and patient global impression of change. The Cochrane risk of bias tool will be used to assess risk of bias of included studies. As we anticipate that scales used to measure participant responses will be related but varied from study to study, standardized mean differences will be used to compare effect sizes between treatment modalities. Given the possibility of little or no head-to-head evidence comparing MBSR with CBT, we will use indirect treatment comparison methodology to assess the relative effectiveness of these interventions.
The findings from this study will assist patients and treatment providers to make informed decisions regarding evidence-based treatment selection for chronic pain disorders.
Systematic review registration
PROSPERO CRD42014009356
PMCID: PMC4230908  PMID: 25387478
Mindfulness-based stress reduction; Cognitive behavioral therapy; Chronic pain; Meta-analysis; Systematic review; Randomized controlled trials
14.  Assessment and Treatment of Psychosocial Comorbidities in Patients With Neuropathic Pain 
Mayo Clinic Proceedings  2010;85(3 Suppl):S42-S50.
Chronic neuropathic pain is a prevalent problem that eludes cure and adequate treatment. The persistence of intense and aversive symptoms, inadequacy of available treatments, and impact of such pain on all aspects of functioning underscore the important role of several psychosocial factors in causing, maintaining, and amplifying the perception of pain severity, coping adequacy, adaptation, impaired physical function, and emotional distress responses. Moreover, these factors have an influential role in response to treatment recommendations. In this article, we (1) review the prevalence and nature of emotional distress, (2) describe and propose methods for screening and comprehensive psychosocial assessment, and (3) review evidence supporting the potential complementary role of psychosocial treatments of patients with chronic pain. The cognitive-behavioral perspective and treatment approach are emphasized because the greatest amount of evidence supports their benefits. Published results of psychological treatments are modest; however, the same indictment can be placed on currently available pharmacological, medical, and interventional treatments for patients with chronic pain. We note the limited research on the effectiveness of psychological treatment specifically applied to patients with chronic neuropathic pain but suggest that it is reasonable to extrapolate from successful trials in other types of chronic pain. Furthermore, psychological approaches should not be viewed as alternatives but rather should be integrated as part of a comprehensive approach to the treatment of patients with chronic neuropathic pain.
PMCID: PMC2844010  PMID: 20194148
15.  Use of a modified Comprehensive Pain Evaluation Questionnaire: Characteristics and functional status of patients on entry to a tertiary care pain clinic 
With increasing knowledge of chronic pain, clinicians have attempted to assess chronic pain patients with lengthy assessment tools.
To describe the functional and emotional status of patients presenting to a tertiary care pain clinic; to assess the reliability and validity of a diagnostic classification system for chronic pain patients modelled after the Multidimensional Pain Inventory; to provide psychometric data on a modified Comprehensive Pain Evaluation Questionnaire (CPEQ); and to evaluate the relationship between the modified CPEQ construct scores and clusters with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition – Text Revision Pain Disorder diagnoses.
Data on 300 new patients over the course of nine months were collected using standardized assessment procedures plus a modified CPEQ at the Comprehensive Pain Program, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.
Cluster analysis of the modified CPEQ revealed three patient profiles, labelled Adaptive Copers, Dysfunctional, and Interpersonally Distressed, which closely resembled those previously reported. The distribution of modified CPEQ construct T scores across profile subtypes was similar to that previously reported for the original CPEQ. A novel finding was that of a strong relationship between the modified CPEQ clusters and constructs with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition – Text Revision Pain Disorder diagnoses.
The CPEQ, either the original or modified version, yields reproducible results consistent with the results of other studies. This technique may usefully classify chronic pain patients, but more work is needed to determine the meaning of the CPEQ clusters, what psychological or biomedical variables are associated with CPEQ constructs or clusters, and whether this instrument may assist in treatment planning or predict response to treatment.
PMCID: PMC3393052  PMID: 22518368
Chronic pain; Comprehensive Pain Evaluation Questionnaire; DSM-IV Pain Disorder
16.  Correlational analysis and predictive validity of psychological constructs related with pain in fibromyalgia 
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a prevalent and disabling disorder characterized by a history of widespread pain for at least three months. Pain is considered a complex experience in which affective and cognitive aspects are crucial for prognosis. The aim of this study is to assess the importance of pain-related psychological constructs on function and pain in patients with FM.
Multicentric, naturalistic, one-year follow-up study.
Setting and study sample. Patients will be recruited from primary care health centres in the region of Aragon, Spain. Patients considered for inclusion are those aged 18-65 years, able to understand Spanish, who fulfil criteria for primary FM according to the American College of Rheumatology, with no previous psychological treatment.
The variables measured will be the following: main variables (pain assessed with a visual analogue scale and with sphygmomanometer and general function assessed with Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, and), psychological constructs (pain catastrophizing, pain acceptance, mental defeat, psychological inflexibility, perceived injustice, mindfulness, and positive and negative affect), and secondary variables (sociodemographic variables, anxiety and depression assessed with Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and psychiatric interview assessed with MINI). Assessments will be carried at baseline and at one-year follow-up.
Main outcome
Pain Visual Analogue Scale.
The existence of differences in socio-demographic, main outcome and other variables regarding pain-related psychological constructs will be analysed using Chi Square test for qualitative variables, or Student t test or variance analysis, respectively, for variables fulfilling the normality hypothesis. To assess the predictive value of pain-related psychological construct on main outcome variables at one-year follow-up, use will be made of a logistic regression analysis adjusted for socio-demographic and clinical variables. A Spearman Rho non-parametric correlation matrix will be developed to determine possible overlapping between pain-related psychological constructs.
In recent years, the relevance of cognitive and affective aspects for the treatment of chronic pain, not only in FM but also in other chronic pain diseases, has been widely acknowledged. However, the relative importance of these psychological constructs, the relationship and possible overlapping between them, or the exact meaning of them in pain are not enough known.
PMCID: PMC3024273  PMID: 21214948
17.  Factors accounting for psychosocial functioning in patients with low back pain 
European Spine Journal  2009;19(4):613-623.
Low back pain (LBP) is a chronic disorder which exerts a profound impact on various spheres of psychosocial functioning, including emotional distress, functional limitations and decrements in social contacts. The objective of this study was to investigate the associations between the indices of psychosocial functioning in patients with chronic LBP and a range of psychological factors. Specifically, the study aimed at exploring the relative participation of personality, social support, disease-related cognitive appraisals and coping styles in accounting for the differences in psychosocial functioning of patients with LBP. One-hundred-twenty patients with LBP took part in the study and completed a battery of psychological questionnaires: NEO–Five Factors Inventory, Ways of Coping Questionnaire, Disease-Related Social Support Scale, Disease-Related Appraisals Scale and Psychosocial Functioning Questionnaire (PFQ). The PFQ dimensions were used as dependent variables in a series of stepwise regression analysis models with the scores from other questionnaires entered as independent variables. A cognitive appraisal of the disease in terms of an obstacle was strongly related to all domains of functioning; however, other appraisals (threat, challenge, harm, profit and overall disease importance) were uniquely associated with particular domains of functioning. Deprivation of social support was a significant predictor of distress experienced in interpersonal context and of sense of being disabled. Among basic personality traits, agreeableness was negatively associated with distress in interpersonal context, and conscientiousness was positively related to acceptance of life with the disease. Problem-focus coping was linked to higher acceptance of life with the disease. Among sociodemographic variables, older age and lower educational level were related to greater subjective feelings of being disabled. Pain severity was found unrelated to any of psychosocial functioning domains. Different aspects of psychosocial functioning are best accounted for by diverse patterns of psychological factors, which suggests involvement of different psychological mechanisms in development of LBP-related disability.
PMCID: PMC2899840  PMID: 19756782
Personality; Coping; Cognitive appraisal; Social support; Psychosocial functioning; Low back pain
18.  The role of psychological interventions in the management of patients with chronic pain 
Chronic pain can be best understood from a biopsychosocial perspective through which pain is viewed as a complex, multifaceted experience emerging from the dynamic interplay of a patient’s physiological state, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and sociocultural influences. A biopsychosocial perspective focuses on viewing chronic pain as an illness rather than disease, thus recognizing that it is a subjective experience and that treatment approaches are aimed at the management, rather than the cure, of chronic pain. Current psychological approaches to the management of chronic pain include interventions that aim to achieve increased self-management, behavioral change, and cognitive change rather than directly eliminate the locus of pain. Benefits of including psychological treatments in multidisciplinary approaches to the management of chronic pain include, but are not limited to, increased self-management of pain, improved pain-coping resources, reduced pain-related disability, and reduced emotional distress – improvements that are effected via a variety of effective self-regulatory, behavioral, and cognitive techniques. Through implementation of these changes, psychologists can effectively help patients feel more in command of their pain control and enable them to live as normal a life as possible despite pain. Moreover, the skills learned through psychological interventions empower and enable patients to become active participants in the management of their illness and instill valuable skills that patients can employ throughout their lives.
PMCID: PMC3218789  PMID: 22114534
chronic pain management; psychology; multidisciplinary pain treatment; cognitive behavioral therapy for pain
19.  Descending pain modulation and chronification of pain 
Purpose of review
Chronic pain is an important public health problem that negatively impacts quality of life of affected individuals and exacts an enormous socio-economic cost. Currently available therapeutics provide inadequate management of pain in many patients. Acute pain states generally resolve in most patients. However, for reasons that are poorly understood, in some individuals, acute pain can transform to a chronic state. Our understanding of the risk factors that underlie the development of chronic pain is limited. Recent studies have suggested an important contribution of dysfunction in descending pain modulatory circuits to pain ‘chronification’. Human studies provide insights into possible endogenous and exogenous factors that may promote the conversion of pain into a chronic condition.
Recent findings
Descending pain modulatory systems have been studied and characterized in animal models. Human brain imaging techniques, deep brain stimulation and the mechanisms of action of drugs that are effective in the treatment of pain confirm the clinical relevance of top-down pain modulatory circuits. Growing evidence supports the concept that chronic pain is associated with a dysregulation in descending pain modulation. Disruption of the balance of descending modulatory circuits to favour facilitation may promote and maintain chronic pain. Recent findings suggest that diminished descending inhibition is likely to be an important element in determining whether pain may become chronic. This view is consistent with the clinical success of drugs that enhance spinal noradrenergic activity, such as serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), in the treatment of chronic pain states. Consistent with this concept, a robust descending inhibitory system may be normally engaged to protect against the development of chronic pain. Imaging studies show that higher cortical and subcortical centres that govern emotional, motivational and cognitive processes communicate directly with descending pain modulatory circuits providing a mechanistic basis to explain how exogenous factors can influence the expression of chronic pain in a susceptible individual.
Preclinical studies coupled with clinical pharmacologic and neuroimaging investigations have advanced our understanding of brain circuits that modulate pain. Descending pain facilitatory and inhibitory circuits arising ultimately in the brainstem provide mechanisms that can be engaged to promote or protect against pain ‘chronification’. These systems interact with higher centres, thus providing a means through which exogenous factors can influence the risk of pain chronification. A greater understanding of the role of descending pain modulation can lead to novel therapeutic directions aimed at normalizing aberrant processes that can lead to chronic pain.
PMCID: PMC4301419  PMID: 24752199
chronic pain; descending inhibition; noradrenergic pain inhibition; pain modulation
20.  Comparative Efficacy of Seven Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Patients with Depression: A Network Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001454.
Jürgen Barth and colleagues use network meta-analysis - a novel methodological approach - to reexamine the comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for adults with depression.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Previous meta-analyses comparing the efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions for depression were clouded by a limited number of within-study treatment comparisons. This study used network meta-analysis, a novel methodological approach that integrates direct and indirect evidence from randomised controlled studies, to re-examine the comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for adult depression.
Methods and Findings
We conducted systematic literature searches in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Embase up to November 2012, and identified additional studies through earlier meta-analyses and the references of included studies. We identified 198 studies, including 15,118 adult patients with depression, and coded moderator variables. Each of the seven psychotherapeutic interventions was superior to a waitlist control condition with moderate to large effects (range d = −0.62 to d = −0.92). Relative effects of different psychotherapeutic interventions on depressive symptoms were absent to small (range d = 0.01 to d = −0.30). Interpersonal therapy was significantly more effective than supportive therapy (d = −0.30, 95% credibility interval [CrI] [−0.54 to −0.05]). Moderator analysis showed that patient characteristics had no influence on treatment effects, but identified aspects of study quality and sample size as effect modifiers. Smaller effects were found in studies of at least moderate (Δd = 0.29 [−0.01 to 0.58]; p = 0.063) and large size (Δd = 0.33 [0.08 to 0.61]; p = 0.012) and those that had adequate outcome assessment (Δd = 0.38 [−0.06 to 0.87]; p = 0.100). Stepwise restriction of analyses by sample size showed robust effects for cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy (all d>0.46) compared to waitlist. Empirical evidence from large studies was unavailable or limited for other psychotherapeutic interventions.
Overall our results are consistent with the notion that different psychotherapeutic interventions for depression have comparable benefits. However, the robustness of the evidence varies considerably between different psychotherapeutic treatments.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Depression is a very common condition. One in six people will experience depression at some time during their life. People who are depressed have recurrent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and might feel that life is no longer worth living. The condition can last for months and often includes physical symptoms such as headaches, sleeping problems, and weight gain or loss. Treatment of depression can include non-drug treatments (psychotherapy), antidepressant drugs, or a combination of the two. Especially for people with mild or intermediate depression, psychotherapy is often considered the preferred first option. Psychotherapy describes a range of different psychotherapies, and a number of established types of psychotherapies have all shown to work for at least some patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
While it is broadly accepted that psychotherapy can help people with depression, the question of which type of psychotherapy works best for most patients remains controversial. While many scientific studies have compared one psychotherapy with control conditions, there have been few studies that directly compared multiple treatments. Without such direct comparisons, it has been difficult to establish the respective merits of the different types of psychotherapy. Taking advantage of a recently developed method called “network meta-analysis,” the authors re-examine the evidence on seven different types of psychotherapy to see how well they have been shown to work and whether some work better than others.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers looked at seven different types of psychotherapy, which they defined as follows. “Interpersonal psychotherapy” is short and highly structured, using a manual to focus on interpersonal issues in depression. “Behavioral activation” raises the awareness of pleasant activities and seeks to increase positive interactions between the patient and his or her environment. “Cognitive behavioral therapy” focuses on a patient's current negative beliefs, evaluates how they affect current and future behavior, and attempts to restructure the beliefs and change the outlook. “Problem solving therapy” aims to define a patient's problems, propose multiple solutions for each problem, and then select, implement, and evaluate the best solution. “Psychodynamic therapy” focuses on past unresolved conflicts and relationships and the impact they have on a patient's current situation. In “social skills therapy,” patients are taught skills that help to build and maintain healthy relationships based on honesty and respect. “Supportive counseling” is a more general therapy that aims to get patients to talk about their experiences and emotions and to offer empathy without suggesting solutions or teaching new skills.
The researchers started with a systematic search of the medical literature for relevant studies. The search identified 198 articles that reported on such clinical trials. The trials included a total of 15,118 patients and compared one of the seven psychotherapies either with another one or with a common “control intervention”. In most cases, the control (no psychotherapy) was deferral of treatment by “wait-listing” patients or continuing “usual care.” With network meta-analysis they were able to summarize the results of all these trials in a meaningful way. They did this by integrating direct comparisons of several psychotherapies within the same trial (where those were available) with indirect comparisons across all trials (using no psychotherapy as a control intervention).
Based on the combined trial results, all seven psychotherapies tested were better than wait-listing or usual care, and the differences were moderate to large, meaning that the average person in the group that received therapy was better off than about half of the patients in the control group. When comparing the therapies with each other, the researchers saw small or no differences, meaning that none of them really stood out as much better or much worse than the others. They also found that the treatments worked equally well for different patient groups with depression (younger or older patients, or mothers who had depression after having given birth). Similarly, they saw no big differences when comparing individual with group therapy, or person-to-person with internet-based interactions between therapist and patient.
However, they did find that smaller and less rigorous studies generally found larger benefits of psychotherapies, and most of the studies included in the analysis were small. Only 36 of the studies had at least 50 patients who received the same treatment. When they restricted their analysis to those studies, the researchers still saw clear benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy, but not for the other four therapies.
What Do these Findings Mean?
Similar to earlier attempts to summarize and make sense of the many study results, this one finds benefits for all of the seven psychotherapies examined, and none of them stood as being much better than some or all others. The scientific support for being beneficial was stronger for some therapies, mostly because they had been tested more often and in larger studies.
Treatments with proven benefits still do not necessarily work for all patients, and which type of psychotherapy might work best for a particular patient likely depends on that individual. So overall this analysis suggests that patients with depression and their doctors should consider psychotherapies and explore which of the different types might be best suited for a particular patient.
The study also points to the need for further research. Whereas depression affects large numbers of people around the world, all of the trials identified were conducted in rich countries and Western societies. Trials in different settings are essential to inform treatment of patients worldwide. In addition, large high-quality studies should further explore the potential benefits of some of therapies for which less support currently exists. Where possible, future studies should compare psychotherapies with one another, because all of them have benefits, and it would not be ethical to withhold such beneficial treatment from patients.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression (in English and Spanish); information on psychotherapy includes information on its most common forms
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides detailed information about depression and includes personal stories about depression
The UK nonprofit Mind provides information on depression, including an explanation of the most common psychotherapies in the UK
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression (in English and Spanish)
The UK nonprofit has a unique database of personal and patient experiences on depression
PMCID: PMC3665892  PMID: 23723742
21.  Neuropathic sensory symptoms: association with pain and psychological factors 
A large number of population-based studies of chronic pain have considered neuropathic sensory symptoms to be associated with a high level of pain intensity and negative affectivity. The present study examines the question of whether this association previously found in non-selected samples of chronic pain patients can also be found in chronic pain patients with underlying pathology of neuropathic sensory symptoms.
Neuropathic sensory symptoms in 306 patients with chronic pain diagnosed as typical neuropathic pain, radiculopathy, fibromyalgia, or nociceptive back pain were assessed using the Pain DETECT Questionnaire. Two separate cluster analyses were performed to identify subgroups of patients with different levels of self-reported neuropathic sensory symptoms and, furthermore, to identify subgroups of patients with distinct patterns of neuropathic sensory symptoms (adjusted for individual response bias regarding specific symptoms).
ANOVA (analysis of variance) results in typical neuropathic pain, radiculopathy, and fibromyalgia showed no significant differences between the three levels of neuropathic sensory symptoms regarding pain intensity, pain chronicity, pain catastrophizing, pain acceptance, and depressive symptoms. However, in nociceptive back pain patients, significant differences were found for all variables except pain chronicity. When controlling for the response bias of patients in ratings of symptoms, none of the patterns of neuropathic sensory symptoms were associated with pain and psychological factors.
Neuropathic sensory symptoms are not closely associated with higher levels of pain intensity and cognitive-emotional evaluations in chronic pain patients with underlying pathology of neuropathic sensory symptoms. The findings are discussed in term of differential response bias in patients with versus without verified neuropathic sensory symptoms by clinical examination, medical tests, or underlying pathology of disease. Our results lend support to the importance of using adjusted scores, thereby eliminating the response bias, when investigating self-reported neuropathic symptoms by patients.
PMCID: PMC4038419  PMID: 24899808
self-reported neuropathic sensory symptoms; pain-related features; response bias
22.  Psychological and Behavioral Approaches to Cancer Pain Management 
Journal of Clinical Oncology  2014;32(16):1703-1711.
This review examines evidence for psychological factors that affect pain across the cancer continuum from diagnosis through treatment and long-term survivorship or end of life. Evidence is convincing that emotional distress, depression, anxiety, uncertainty, and hopelessness interact with pain. Unrelieved pain can increase a desire for hastened death. Patients with cancer use many strategies to manage pain, with catastrophizing associated with increased pain and self-efficacy associated with lower pain reports. A variety of psychological and cognitive behavioral treatments can reduce pain severity and interference with function, as indicated in multiple meta-analyses and high-quality randomized controlled trials. Effective methods include education (with coping skills training), hypnosis, cognitive behavioral approaches, and relaxation with imagery. Exercise has been tested extensively in patients with cancer and long-term survivors, but few exercise studies have evaluated pain outcomes. In survivors post-treatment, yoga and hypnosis as well as exercise show promise for controlling pain. Although some of these treatments effectively reduce pain for patients with advanced disease, few have been tested in patients at the end of life. Given the clear indicators that psychological factors affect cancer pain and that psychological and behavioral treatments are effective in reducing varying types of pain for patients with active disease, these methods need further testing in cancer survivors post-treatment and in patients with end-stage disease. Multidisciplinary teams are essential in oncology settings to integrate analgesic care and expertise in psychological and behavioral interventions in standard care for symptom management, including pain.
PMCID: PMC4031190  PMID: 24799497
23.  Adaptive Associations between Social Cognition and Emotion Regulation are Absent in Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder 
Schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar disorder (BD) are associated with impairments in facial emotion perception and Theory of Mind (ToM). These social cognitive skills deficits may be related to a reduced capacity to effectively regulate one’s own emotions according to the social context. We therefore set out to examine the relationship between social cognitive abilities and the use of cognitive strategies for regulating negative emotion in SZ and BD. Participants were 56 SZ, 33 BD, and 58 healthy controls (HC) who completed the Ekman 60-faces test of facial emotion recognition; a sub-set of these participants also completed The Awareness of Social Inference Test (TASIT) and the Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (CERQ). SZ participants demonstrated impairments in emotion perception on both the Ekman and the TASIT Emotion Evaluation tests relative to BD and HC. While both SZ and BD patients showed ToM deficits (i.e., perception of sarcasm and lie) compared to HC, SZ patients demonstrated significantly greater ToM impairment compared to BD. There were also distinct patterns of cognitive strategies used to regulate emotion in both patient groups: those with SZ were more likely to engage in catastrophizing and rumination, while BD subjects were more likely to blame themselves and were less likely to engage in positive reappraisal, relative to HC. In addition, those with SZ were more likely to blame others compared to BD. Associations between social cognition and affect regulation were revealed for HC only: TASIT performance was negatively associated with more frequent use of rumination, catastrophizing, and blaming others, such that more frequent use of maladaptive cognitive emotion regulation strategies was associated with poor social cognitive performance. These associations were not present in either patient group. However, both SZ and BD patients demonstrated poor ToM performance and aberrant use of emotion regulation strategies consistent with previous studies. SZ also showed basic emotion recognition deficits relative to BD and HC. That there were no associations between social cognition and the capacity to self-regulate negative emotion in SZ and BD (in the context of poor social cognition and maladaptive regulatory strategies) suggests that dysfunction in fronto-limbic brain networks may underpin both social cognitive deficits and the use of maladaptive cognitive strategies in these disorders, albeit by potentially different routes.
PMCID: PMC3573888  PMID: 23423878
social cognition; emotion; cognitive emotion regulation; schizophrenia; bipolar disorder
24.  A Novel Tool for the Assessment of Pain: Validation in Low Back Pain 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(4):e1000047.
Joachim Scholz and colleagues develop and validate an assessment tool that distinguishes between radicular and axial low back pain.
Adequate pain assessment is critical for evaluating the efficacy of analgesic treatment in clinical practice and during the development of new therapies. Yet the currently used scores of global pain intensity fail to reflect the diversity of pain manifestations and the complexity of underlying biological mechanisms. We have developed a tool for a standardized assessment of pain-related symptoms and signs that differentiates pain phenotypes independent of etiology.
Methods and Findings
Using a structured interview (16 questions) and a standardized bedside examination (23 tests), we prospectively assessed symptoms and signs in 130 patients with peripheral neuropathic pain caused by diabetic polyneuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, or radicular low back pain (LBP), and in 57 patients with non-neuropathic (axial) LBP. A hierarchical cluster analysis revealed distinct association patterns of symptoms and signs (pain subtypes) that characterized six subgroups of patients with neuropathic pain and two subgroups of patients with non-neuropathic pain. Using a classification tree analysis, we identified the most discriminatory assessment items for the identification of pain subtypes. We combined these six interview questions and ten physical tests in a pain assessment tool that we named Standardized Evaluation of Pain (StEP). We validated StEP for the distinction between radicular and axial LBP in an independent group of 137 patients. StEP identified patients with radicular pain with high sensitivity (92%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 83%–97%) and specificity (97%; 95% CI 89%–100%). The diagnostic accuracy of StEP exceeded that of a dedicated screening tool for neuropathic pain and spinal magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, we were able to reproduce subtypes of radicular and axial LBP, underscoring the utility of StEP for discerning distinct constellations of symptoms and signs.
We present a novel method of identifying pain subtypes that we believe reflect underlying pain mechanisms. We demonstrate that this new approach to pain assessment helps separate radicular from axial back pain. Beyond diagnostic utility, a standardized differentiation of pain subtypes that is independent of disease etiology may offer a unique opportunity to improve targeted analgesic treatment.
Editors' Summary
Pain, although unpleasant, is essential for survival. Whenever the body is damaged, nerve cells detecting the injury send an electrical message via the spinal cord to the brain and, as a result, action is taken to prevent further damage. Usually pain is short-lived, but sometimes it continues for weeks, months, or years. Long-lasting (chronic) pain can be caused by an ongoing, often inflammatory condition (for example, arthritis) or by damage to the nervous system itself—experts call this “neuropathic” pain. Damage to the brain or spinal cord causes central neuropathic pain; damage to the nerves that convey information from distant parts of the body to the spinal cord causes peripheral neuropathic pain. One example of peripheral neuropathic pain is “radicular” low back pain (also called sciatica). This is pain that radiates from the back into the legs. By contrast, axial back pain (the most common type of low back pain) is confined to the lower back and is non-neuropathic.
Why Was This Study Done?
Chronic pain is very common—nearly 10% of American adults have frequent back pain, for example—and there are many treatments for it, including rest, regulated exercise (physical therapy), pain-killing drugs (analgesics), and surgery. However, the best treatment for any individual depends on the exact nature of their pain, so it is important to assess their pain carefully before starting treatment. This is usually done by scoring overall pain intensity, but this assessment does not reflect the characteristics of the pain (for example, whether it occurs spontaneously or in response to external stimuli) or the complex biological processes involved in pain generation. An assessment designed to take such factors into account might improve treatment outcomes and could be useful in the development of new therapies. In this study, the researchers develop and test a new, standardized tool for the assessment of chronic pain that, by examining many symptoms and signs, aims to distinguish between pain subtypes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
One hundred thirty patients with several types of peripheral neuropathic pain and 57 patients with non-neuropathic (axial) low back pain completed a structured interview of 16 questions and a standardized bedside examination of 23 tests. Patients were asked, for example, to choose words that described their pain from a list provided by the researchers and to grade the intensity of particular aspects of their pain from zero (no pain) to ten (the maximum imaginable pain). Bedside tests included measurements of responses to light touch, pinprick, and vibration—chronic pain often alters responses to harmless stimuli. Using “hierarchical cluster analysis,” the researchers identified six subgroups of patients with neuropathic pain and two subgroups of patients with non-neuropathic pain based on the patterns of symptoms and signs revealed by the interviews and physical tests. They then used “classification tree analysis” to identify the six questions and ten physical tests that discriminated best between pain subtypes and combined these items into a tool for a Standardized Evaluation of Pain (StEP). Finally, the researchers asked whether StEP, which took 10–15 minutes, could identify patients with radicular back pain and discriminate them from those with axial back pain in an independent group of 137 patients with chronic low back pain. StEP, they report, accurately diagnosed these two conditions and was well accepted by the patients.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that a standardized assessment of pain-related signs and symptoms can provide a simple, quick diagnostic procedure that distinguishes between radicular (neuropathic) and axial (non-neuropathic) low back pain. This distinction is crucial because these types of back pain are best treated in different ways. In addition, the findings suggest that it might be possible to identify additional pain subtypes using StEP. Because these subtypes may represent conditions in which different pain mechanisms are acting, classifying patients in this way might eventually enable physicians to tailor treatments for chronic pain to the specific needs of individual patients rather than, as at present, largely guessing which of the available treatments is likely to work best.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Giorgio Cruccu and and Andrea Truini
The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke provides a primer on pain in English and Spanish
In its 2006 report on the health status of the US, the National Center for Health Statistics provides a special feature on the epidemiology of pain, including back pain
The Pain Treatment Topics Web site is a resource, sponsored partly by associations and manufacturers, that provides information on all aspects of pain and its treatment for health care professionals and their patients
Medline Plus provides a brief description of pain and of back pain and links to further information on both topics (in English and Spanish)
The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia also has a page on low back pain (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2661253  PMID: 19360087
Human brain mapping  2011;34(4):945-955.
Inducing and experiencing emotions about others’ mental and physical circumstances is thought to involve self-relevant processing and personal memories of similar experiences. The hippocampus is important for self-referential processing during recall and prospection; however, its contributions during social emotions have not been systematically investigated. We use event-related averaging and Granger causal connectivity mapping to investigate hippocampal contributions during the processing of varieties of admiration and compassion pertaining to protagonists’ mental versus physical circumstances (admiration for virtue, AV, versus for skill; compassion for social/psychological pain, CSP, versus for physical pain). Data were collected using a multistep emotion induction paradigm that included psychosocial interviews, BOLD fMRI and simultaneous psychophysiological recording. Given that mnemonic demands were equivalent among conditions, we tested whether: (1) the hippocampi would be recruited more strongly and for a longer duration during the processing of AV and CSP; (2) connectivity between the hippocampi and cortical systems involved in visceral somatosensation/emotional feeling, social cognitive, and self-related processing would be more extensive during AV and CSP. Results elucidate the hippocampus’ facilitative role in inducing and sustaining appropriate emotional reactions, the importance of self-related processing during social emotions, and corroborate the conception that varieties of emotional processing pertaining to others’ mental and physical situations engage at least partially distinct neural mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3340463  PMID: 22012639
admiration; compassion; social cognition; self processing; insula

Results 1-25 (1179612)