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Behav Res Ther. 1990;28(4):283-7.

The influence of family support on chronic pain.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115.


This study examined the role family support plays in insulating chronic pain patients from maladaptive behaviors associated with their pain. Two hundred and thirty-three patients who described their family as always being supportive and never having any conflicts were compared with 275 chronic pain patients who endorsed having family disharmony and limited support. One year after completing an out-patient pain program a random sample of 181 of these patients were followed to determine the extent to which family support influenced treatment outcome. The patients who reported having non-supportive families tended to have liability and work-related injuries, relied on medication, reported having more pain sites and used more pain descriptors in describing their pain. These patients also tended to show more pain behaviors and more emotional distress compared with pain patients coming from supportive families. On follow-up, patients who described their families as being supportive reported significantly less pain intensity, less reliance on medication and greater activity levels. They tended to be working and not to have gone elsewhere for treatment of their pain compared with patients who described their family as non-supportive. The results of this study demonstrate that perceived support is an important factor in the rehabilitation of chronic pain patients.

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