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Papers of the Week

Papers: 22 Jun 2024 - 28 Jun 2024

2024 Jun 10

Psychosom Med


The hope and reality of pain relief using psychological manipulations.


Derbyshire SW


Many patients suffer chronic pain despite the absence of injury or sufficient biomedical disease to explain their pain. These pains are highly resistant to treatment. Psychological therapies designed to help patients undermine the negative thought and behavioral patterns that maintain pain provide only modest pain relief, leading to suspicion that such pain might be maintained by unconscious processes. An article in this edition of Psychosomatic Medicine provides the first experimental evidence that unconscious negative memories can increase pain unpleasantness. These findings are exciting, but the effect sizes are small, which is consistent with the small effects of psychological therapy. It seems that pain stubbornly resists psychological manipulation, but this work provides some hope that psychological therapy for pain can be improved to provide more effective pain relief.