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Psychological approaches to the management of arthritis pain

By Laurence A. Bradley, Larry D. Young, Karen O. Anderson, Lisa K. McDaniel, Robert A. Turner and Carlos A. Agudelo


The present review examines the literature regarding the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral and other self-control interventions in helping arthritis patients reduce their pain and functional disabilities. The evidence indicates that self-control interventions have produced significant and positive changes in the pain and functional disabilities of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and arthritis secondary to hemophilia. However, the literature suffers from deficiencies with regard to the use of small subject samples; inadequate control procedures and follow-up assessments; failure to demonstrate that positive outcomes are related to changes in subjects' covert experiences or control of physiological variables; and reliance upon self-report measures of outcome. The review is followed by a description of a multidisciplinary study of the efficacy of a biofeedback-assisted, cognitive-behavioral group therapy program for rheumatoid arthritis patients that features several methodological improvements relative to previous investigations. The preliminary outcome data show that the cognitive-behavioral intervention is associated with reductions in pain behavior and self-reports of pain and disability. It is concluded that, although the self-control interventions have shown promising results, psychologists must demonstrate positive and reliable outcomes among large numbers of arthritis patients over extended periods of time if the interventions are to be viewed as credible by rheumatologists.

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