Coping or acceptance: What to do about chronic pain?

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Research and treatment of chronic pain over the past 20 or more years have tended to focus on patient coping as the primary behavioral contribution to adjustment. The purpose of the present study was to compare a coping approach to chronic pain with a different behavioral approach referred to as acceptance of chronic pain. These approaches were compared in terms of their ability to predict distress and disability in a sample of patients seeking treatment for chronic pain. Subjects were 230 adults assessed at a university pain management center. All patients completed the coping strategies questionnaire and the chronic pain acceptance questionnaire among other standard measures. Results showed that coping variables were relatively weakly related to acceptance of pain and relatively unreliably related to pain adjustment variables. On the other hand, acceptance of chronic pain was associated with less pain, disability, depression and pain-related anxiety, higher daily uptime, and better work status. Regression analyses examined the independent contributions of coping and acceptance to key adjustment indicators in relation to chronic pain. Results from these analyses demonstrated that acceptance of pain repeatedly accounted for more variance than coping variables. © 2003 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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McCracken, L. M., & Eccleston, C. (2003). Coping or acceptance: What to do about chronic pain? Pain, 105(1–2), 197–204.

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