Unraveling the barriers to reconceptualization of the problem in chronic pain: the actual and perceived ability of patients and health professionals to understand the neurophysiology

  • Lorimer Moseley
    Address reprint requests to Lorimer Moseley, PhD, NHMRC Clinical Research Fellow, Department of Physiotherapy, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Herston 4029, Australia.
    Department of Physiotherapy, The University of Queensland and Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

    The Pain Management & Research Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital and University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
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      To identify why reconceptualization of the problem is difficult in chronic pain, this study aimed to evaluate whether (1) health professionals and patients can understand currently accurate information about the neurophysiology of pain and (2) health professionals accurately estimate the ability of patients to understand the neurophysiology of pain. Knowledge tests were completed by 276 patients with chronic pain and 288 professionals either before (untrained) or after (trained) education about the neurophysiology of pain. Professionals estimated typical patient performance on the test. Untrained participants performed poorly (mean ± standard deviation, 55% ± 19% and 29% ± 12% for professionals and patients, respectively), compared to their trained counterparts (78% ± 21% and 61% ± 19%, respectively). The estimated patient score (46% ± 18%) was less than the actual patient score (P < .005). The results suggest that professionals and patients can understand the neurophysiology of pain but professionals underestimate patients’ ability to understand. The implications are that (1) a poor knowledge of currently accurate information about pain and (2) the underestimation of patients’ ability to understand currently accurate information about pain represent barriers to reconceptualization of the problem in chronic pain within the clinical and lay arenas.


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