Send to

Choose Destination
Pain. 1989 Aug;38(2):123-35.

The utility of cognitive coping strategies for altering pain perception: a meta-analysis.

Author information

Dept. of Clinical Psychology, Ohio State University, Columbus 43210.


The literature on the utility of cognitive coping strategies in pain control has been unclear because of 2 principal limitations: the lack of a validated classification system, and reliance on qualitative and quasi-statistical reviews. In this study, an empirically based multidimensional taxonomy was employed to categorize the variety of cognitive coping strategies into 6 major classes: external focus of attention, neutral imaginings, pleasant imaginings, dramatized coping, rhythmic cognitive activity and pain acknowledging. Meta-analytic techniques were introduced to evaluate the overall efficacy of cognitive strategies (in comparison to no-treatment controls), the relative efficacy of these strategies (how the different groups of strategies compare with one another), and the substantive efficacy of such strategies (how cognitive strategies fare against placebo/expectancy conditions). Results revealed that, in general, cognitive coping strategies are more effective in alleviating pain as compared to either no-treatment or expectancy controls. Each individual class of strategies significantly attenuates pain although the imagery methods are the most effective whereas pain acknowledging is the least effective. Positive expectancy is no better than no treatment. These findings stand in contrast with previous reviews that have not assigned prime importance to imagery or for that matter have not shown cognitive strategies to be particularly effective. Results are discussed with reference to attentional models and methodological issues.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wolters Kluwer
Loading ...
Support Center