M. Dehghani , L. Sharpe , M.K. Nicholas

Research suggests that chronic pain patients demonstrate cognitive biases towards pain-related information and that such biases predict patient functioning. This study examined the degree to which a successful cognitive-behavioural program was able to reduce the observed attentional bias towards sensory pain words. Forty-two patients with chronic pain conditions for more than three months were recruited prior to commencing a cognitive-behavioural pain management program. Participants were assessed before the program, after the program and at one-month follow-up. Results confirmed that chronic pain patients exhibited biased attention towards sensory pain-related words at pre-treatment. These biases were still evident at post-treatment, but were no longer statistically significant at follow-up. Multiple regression analyses indicated that the changes in attentional bias towards sensory words between post-treatment and follow-up were predicted by pre- to post-treatment changes in fear of movement (Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia) but not other relevant variables, such fear of pain or anxiety sensitivity. These results demonstrate that successful cognitive-behavioural treatments can reduce selective attention, thought to be indicative of hypervigilance towards pain. Moreover, these biases appear to be changed by reducing the fear associated with movement. Theoretically, these results provide support for the fear of (re)injury model of pain. Clinically, this study supports the contention that fear of (re)injury and movement is an appropriate target of pain management and that reducing these fears causes patients to attend less to pain-related stimuli.
Keywords: Chronic pain; Cognitive bias; Fear of pain; Cognitive-behaviour therapy

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Modification of attentional biases in chronic pain patients: a preliminary study

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