How does distraction work in the management of pain?

  title={How does distraction work in the management of pain?},
  author={Malcolm H. Johnson},
  journal={Current Pain and Headache Reports},
Engaging in thoughts or activities that distract attention from pain is one of the most commonly used and highly endorsed strategies for controlling pain. The process of distraction appears to involve competition for attention between a highly salient sensation (pain) and consciously directed focus on some other information processing activity. In this article, the evidence for distraction from pain is examined and the qualities of pain, the distractor, and some individual difference variables… 
Mechanisms of distraction in acute pain perception and modulation.
Systematic reviews and metaanalyses generally support use of distraction for acute pain among infants and children, with less consistent evidence for adolescents and adults.
Catastrophizing delays the analgesic effect of distraction
Gaining insights on the influence of attention, anxiety, and anticipation on pain perception
The results suggest the importance of appointing the appropriate attention strategy to different individuals with varying level of trait anxiety, and imply that the effectiveness of attention strategies in attenuating pain is affected by individuals’ pain-related trait anxiety.
Task interference and distraction efficacy in patients with fibromyalgia: an experimental investigation
Support for contemporary theories claiming that attention modulates the experience of pain and vice versa is provided, however, no evidence was found for an altered attentional processing of pain in patients with FM.
Use of Video Games in Patients' Self-management of Pain: A Feasibility Study
To examine the effects of video game use on pain perception, pain interference perception and perceived self-efficacy in pain management in adult inpatients, a purposive sample of 30 hospitalized adults in a neuro trauma progressive care unit, and an orthopedic acute care unit was utilized.
Anxiety and perception of pain: the role of personality and distractor Ttype
The present research concerns personality type (extraversion and neuroticism), distraction type (relaxation and attentionally demanding), anxiety and pain tolerance. Previous studies have examined
Interactive effects of pain catastrophizing and mindfulness on pain intensity in women with fibromyalgia
It is suggested that various aspects of mindfulness may interact differently with pain and catastrophizing, which may have implications for the design and testing of interventions targeting mindfulness and catastophizing in fibromyalgia patients.
Objective: Attention-based coping strategies that direct attention away from pain have a strong evidence base among adolescents. However, it has been suggested that among youth high in pain
The effects of mindful attention and state mindfulness on acute experimental pain among adolescents.
The mindful attention manipulation was effective among adolescents with a regular meditation practice, and state mindfulness was related to ameliorated pain responses, and these effects were mediated by reduced catastrophizing.


Distraction and coping with pain.
An explicit conceptual explanations of why and when distraction will be effective are offered and research related to this conceptual scheme is reviewed to discuss implications and research necessary for helping persons to cope with pain.
Does distraction reduce pain-produced distress among college students?
  • K. Mccaul, N. Monson, R. Maki
  • Psychology
    Health psychology : official journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association
  • 1992
College students in four experiments placed their hands in ice water and reported their distress and simultaneously engaged in different reaction-time tasks that varied in the amount of attention required for successful performance, calling into question the hypothesis that attention mediates the process whereby distraction tasks reduce pain-produced distress.
Pain demands attention: a cognitive-affective model of the interruptive function of pain.
A model of the interruptive function of pain is developed that holds that pain is selected for action from within complex affective and motivational environments to urge escape.
Effects of different cognitive strategies on chronic pain experience
Results demonstrated that, within a physical rehabilitation hospital setting, patients with a history of persistent pain showed a significant change in their ratings of the quality and intensity of this experience, and in their behavior, through the use of reinterpretive cognitive instructions.
The disruptive nature of pain: an experimental investigation.
Delayed costs of suppressed pain.
It is demonstrated that the rebound effect of thought suppression has an analog in the experience of somatic discomfort and that monitoring produced the most rapid recovery from the pain and that suppression produced the slowest.