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Review: limited evidence that psychological therapies are of benefit for adults with chronic pain

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Are psychological therapies effective for improving pain, disability and mood in adults with chronic pain?


Any measurement of pain, disability or mood.



Systematic review with meta-analysis.

Data sources:

The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE and Psychlit (from database inception to January 2008; an update search was later made up to August 2008).

Study selection and analysis:

Published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing any psychological treatment with placebo, waiting list control, or medical or physical treatment for adults (aged >18 years) with chronic pain (⩾3 months’ duration; any site of the body). Exclusions: pain associated with malignancy; chronic headache or migraine. Two reviewers independently assessed quality and included studies based on consensus agreement. Studies were classified as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or behavioural therapy (BT) compared with active control (AC) or treatment as usual (TAU). Outcomes were assessed immediately post-treatment or at follow-up (between 6 and 12 months post-treatment). Heterogeneity was assessed using the χ2and I2 statistic.

Main results

Forty studies (n = 4781) met the inclusion criteria. Fourteen studies were of treatments for …

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  • Source of funding Department of Health, UK.


  • Competing interests None.

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