Learning to live with the pain: Acceptance of pain predicts adjustment in persons with chronic pain

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APA Citation: 

McCracken, L. M. (1998). Learning to live with the pain: Acceptance of pain predicts adjustment in persons with chronic pain. Pain, 74, 27.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
Article
Language: 
English
Keyword(s): 
Chronic pain; Acceptance; Anxiety; Depression; Disability; Behavioral concepts
Abstract: 

When patients find their pain unacceptable they are likely to attempt to avoid it at all costs and seek readily available interventions to reduce or eliminate it. These efforts may not be in their best interest if the consequences include no reductions in pain and many missed opportunities for more satisfying and productive functioning. The purpose of this study was to examine acceptance of pain. One hundred and sixty adults with chronic pain provided responses to a questionnaire assessing acceptance of pain, and a number of other questionnaires assessing their adjustment to pain. Correlational analyses showed that greater acceptance of pain was associated with reports of lower pain intensity, less pain-related anxiety and avoidance, less depression, less physical and psychosocial disability, more daily uptime, and better work status. A relatively low correlation between acceptance and pain intensity showed that acceptance is not simply a function of having a low level of pain. Regression analyses showed that acceptance of pain predicted better adjustment on all other measures of patient function, independent of perceived pain intensity. These results are preliminary. Further study will be needed to show for whom and under what circumstances, accepting some aspects of the pain experience may be beneficial.

Comments: 
This study is based on a pain related early version of the AAQ. Greater acceptance of pain was associated with reports of lower pain intensity, less pain-related anxiety and avoidance, less depression, less physical and psychosocial disability, more daily uptime, and better work status. A relatively low correlation between acceptance and pain intensity showed that acceptance is not simply a function of having a low level of pain. Regression analyses showed that acceptance of pain predicted better adjustment on all other measures of patient function, independent of perceived pain intensity. This work is replicated, refined and extended in McCracken, L. M. & Eccleston, C. (2003). Coping or acceptance: What to do about chronic pain. Pain, 105, 197-204. and McCracken, L. M. , Vowles, K. E., & Eccleston, C. (2004). Acceptance of chronic pain: Component analysis and a revised assessment method. Pain, 107, 159-166.
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