Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain Patients
  1. Dennis C Turk, Ph.D.
  1. From the Department of Anesthesiology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  1. Reprint requests: Dennis C. Turk, Ph.D., Department of Anesthesiology, Box 356540, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. E-mail: turkdc{at}


Background and Objectives Chronic pain is both prevalent and costly. Despite advances in understanding the anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry of nociception and development of potent analgesic agents and advanced technology, a significant number of people continue to experience pain and related disability. The perception of and response to pain are influenced by cognitive, affective, and behavioral factors as well as physical pathology. In this article, a selective review of research supporting the important contributions of psychologic factors is provided, a cognitive-behavioral perspective to understanding pain is presented, an integrative treatment and rehabilitation approach based on this perspective is described, and some of the evidence supporting the effectiveness of this treatment approach is summarized.

Conclusion Chronic pain by definition persists over a long period—it is a chronic disease. Even the most sophisticated treatments are incapable of eliminating all pain for all pain sufferers. There is also tremendous variation in how patients respond to treatments provided and prescribed. Better treatment outcomes are likely to occur when the psychologic contributors and the physical factors involved are addressed. Moreover, a treatment approach based on the cognitive-behavioral perspective should help patients adapt to residual pain that remains after currently available treatments are undertaken. Thus cognitive-behavioral treatments should be viewed as important complements to more traditional pharmacological, physical, and surgical interventions.

  • Chronic pain
  • Psychology
  • Cognitive-behavioral model
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by grants from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (AR/AI44724, AR47298), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development/National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (HD33989), and the Fetzer Institute.