Expectations of patients influence the perception and neuronal processing of acute and chronic pain and modulate the effectiveness of analgesic treatment. The expectation of treatment is not only the most important determinant of placebo analgesia. Expectations of treatment also influence the efficacy and tolerability of "active" pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment of pain. Recent insights into the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms underlying the clinically relevant effects of treatment expectations enable and call for the systematic integration and modulation of treatment expectations into analgesic treatment concepts. Such a strategy promises to optimize analgesic treatment and to prevent or reduce the burden of unwanted side effects and the misuse of analgesics, particularly of opioids. This review highlights the current concepts, recent achievements and also challenges and key open research questions.