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Papers of the Week

Papers: 27 Jan 2024 - 2 Feb 2024

2024 Jan 29

J Pain


The Moderating Effects of Cognitive Processes on Pain-Related Outcomes.


Torres ND, Newman AK, Day MA, Chan JF, Friedly JL, Jensen MP


Although evidence supports the importance of pain-related thoughts (i.e., cognitive content, or what people think) as predictors of pain and pain-related function, evidence regarding the role of cognitive processes (i.e., how people think about pain, for example, by accepting pain, not making judgments about pain, or being absorbed by the pain experience) in adjustment to chronic pain is in its early stages. Using baseline data from a clinical trial of individuals with chronic low back pain (N = 327), the study aimed to increase knowledge regarding the associations between cognitive processes, pain, pain interference, and depression. The results indicate that a number of cognitive processes are significantly related to pain intensity when controlling for catastrophizing, although the pattern of associations found was opposite to those anticipated. One cognitive process (pain absorption) was found to be significantly associated with pain interference, and nine of 10 cognitive processes were significantly associated with depression, when controlling for catastrophizing. In each case, the processes thought to be adaptive were negatively associated with pain interference and depression, and processes thought to be maladaptive evidenced the opposite pattern. The findings are consistent with but do not prove, given the cross-sectional nature of the data the possibility that cognitive processes play an important role in adjustment to chronic pain. The potential role these variables play in depression was particularly noteworthy. Longitudinal and experimental studies to evaluate the causal nature of the associations identified are warranted.