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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2002 Mar;25(1):71-88.

Refractory chronic pain.

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  • 1Adolf Meyer Chronic Pain Treatment Programs, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Refractory chronic pain is a significant public health problem and frustrating to everyone affected by it. All physicians can participate in the care of these patients, but psychiatrists should take a leading role in their care. A comprehensive approach offers hope and increases the opportunities for successful treatment. Each perspective of an interdisciplinary formulation has a unique logic that defines specific methods for designing treatment for the patient with refractory chronic pain. The patient does not have to fit into one theoretic approach or model to receive and accept treatment. The patient's diagnoses are based on the formulation, which then directs treatment along rational directions. The linkages and interactions of a patient's diagnoses can then be investigated within a framework that includes the entire person and not just his or her biochemistry. If a patient's suffering persists, other factors must be considered that may have been overlooked before the treatment plan is abandoned or modified. Usually these factors are within one of the perspectives initially thought to be less important. A new combination of approaches is then required to treat the patient successfully. The perspectives appreciate not only that the patient is struggling through important life events but also that he is a person composed of vulnerabilities and strengths, having made many choices and afflicted by diseases.

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