Biopsychosocial Approaches to Understanding Chronic Pain and Disability

  • Robert J. GatchelEmail author
  • Robbie Haggard
  • Christina Thomas
  • Krista J. Howard


At the beginning of the twenty-first century, pain began to be identified in clinical research and medical settings as a fifth vital sign (in addition to pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration). Pain has become such a common medical problem in the USA that an estimated 10% of doctor visits result from pain being reported as the chief complaint (Woodwell, D. A. (2000). National Ambulatory Medical Survey: 1998 Summary Advanced Data from Vital and Health Statistics No. 315. Hyattsville, MO, National Center for Health Statistics.), and more than 50 million Americans are impacted by pain annually, with costs exceeding $70 billion annually in health-care costs and lost productivity according to experts (Gatchel, R. J. & Mayer, T. G. (2000) Occupational musculoskeletal disorders: Introduction and overview of the problem. In T. G. Mayer, R. J. Gatchel, & P. B. Polatin (Eds.), Occupational musculoskeletal disorders: function, outcomes, and evidence (pp. 3–8). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins). This chapter will introduce and review in some detail the current understanding of the biopsychosocial (BPS) perspective of pain. This more inclusive approach to understanding and helping people to manage their pain has proven to be the most heuristic method when considering issues of pain etiology, assessment, and treatment. To understand how clinicians and researchers arrived at this perspective, it is first important to have some understanding of what theories came before and led up to the BPS perspective.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Gatchel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Robbie Haggard
    • 1
  • Christina Thomas
    • 1
  • Krista J. Howard
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, College of ScienceThe University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, College of Liberal ArtsTexas State UniversitySan MarcosUSA

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