Chronic pain diagnoses are easy to obtain. Because it is symptom-based medicine and a subjective ailment, it's difficult to say what is real and what isn't.

In cases where the ailment is psychological, the treatment is also, and a new review paper finds that psychological interventions provide more relief than prescription drugs or surgery, though they are used much less frequently than traditional medical. According to the paper, almost half of American adults suffer from chronic pain, and who are you to tell anyone they are not in pain?

"Chronic pain affects 116 million American adults, making it more prevalent than heart disease, diabetes and cancer combined, and traditional medical approaches are inadequate," said lead author Mark P. Jensen, PhD, in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Washington. "This review highlights the key role that psychologists have had - and continue to have - in the understanding and effective treatment of chronic pain."

When someone declares that medicine, with its double-blind clinical trials, is inadequate, and their alternative is better, some skepticism is in order. Alternative medicine also includes acupuncture, homeopathy and long-distance healing, so finding a bunch of papers that endorse alternative medicine and declaring it must be superior because a review of alternative medicine papers that used surveys say it is superior, does not make it medicine.

The same magazine says there is racial and ethnic profiling in the assessment and treatment of chronic pain and family influences on children's chronic pain. Various articles discuss cognitive behavioral therapy for pain, acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness and hypnosis - basically, anything that requires no evidence gets the journal treatment. 

"The more we learn, the more the field of chronic pain treatment recognizes the critical contribution of psychologists," said the psychologist. "This may be due to the fact that psychologists' expertise about the brain, behavior and their interaction is at the heart of both the problem of and the solution to chronic pain."

That may be true. No one else claims to be experts about the brain and perhaps that is because psychologists really do understand neuroscience better than scientists.

Published in the American Psychologist