Accumulating evidence suggests an association between patient expectations and treatment success across various types of pain treatments. Expectations among treatment caregivers, however, are often neglected. Despite international treatment guidelines, only a small minority of chronic pain patients undergo psychological interventions. Therefore, our aim was to explore expectations among treatment receivers and caregivers especially concerning their attitudes towards psychological pain treatments.
Two hundred ten (potential) treatment receivers (n=85 individuals suffering from chronic low back pain (CLBP); n=125 healthy controls) and 237 caregivers (n=75 physicians; n=64 psychotherapists; n=98 physiotherapists) provided ratings of expected treatment success for standardized vignettes describing patients suffering from CLBP and undergoing a pharmacological, psychological, or multimodal pain management program.
Individuals suffering from CLBP generally had lower treatment expectations than healthy controls. Both psychotherapists and physicians had higher treatment expectations from their own individual treatment approach. All participants expected the multimodal approach to be most effective. The psychological approach was expected to be more effective than the pharmacological approach – except for the physicians, who expected both treatment approaches to be equally effective.
There is an urgent need to clarify, under which circumstances and how patient expectations can be altered among individuals suffering from CLBP. Our results appear to encourage the implementation of multimodal and psychological pain management approaches across various settings. We invite clinicians to reflect whether their own expectations are in line with the recommendations in international treatment guidelines.