Coping with chronic pain: a critical review of the literature

Mark P. Jensen, Judith A. Turner, Joan M. Romano, Paul Karoly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

673 Scopus citations


A growing number of investigators have used models of stress and coping to help explain the differences in adjustment found among persons who experience chronic pain. This article reviews the empirical research which has examined the relationships among beliefs, coping, and adjustment to chronic pain. Although preliminary, some consistent findings are beginning to emerge. For example, patients who believe they can control their pain, who avoid catastrophizing about their condition, and who believe they are not severely disabled appear to function better than those who do not. Such beliefs may mediate some of the relationships between pain severity and adjustment. Although coping strategies appear to be associated with adjustment in chronic pain patients, methodological problems limit conclusions regarding the strenght and nature of this association. Our recommendations for future research include the development of coping and belief measures which: (1) do not confound different dimensions (e.g., coping, beliefs, and adjustment) in the same measure; (2) assess specific (rather than composite) constructs; (3) are psychometrically sound; and (4) assess behavioral coping strategies more objectively. We also recommend a greater use of experimental research designs to examine causal relationships among appraisals, coping, andadjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-283
Number of pages35
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1991


  • Beliefs
  • Chronic pain
  • Coping strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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