Cheng DK, Lai KSP, Pico-Espinosa OJ, et al. Interventions for Depressive Symptoms in People Living with Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review of Meta-Analyses. Pain Med. 2021 Aug 9. pii: 6346994. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnab248. (Systematic review)

OBJECTIVE: This review investigated the effectiveness of clinical interventions on depressive symptoms in people with all types of chronic pain.

METHODS: We searched seven electronic databases and reference lists on September 15, 2020, and included English-language, systematic reviews and meta-analyses of trials that examined the effects of clinical interventions on depressive outcomes in chronic pain. Two independent reviewers screened, extracted, and assessed the risk of bias. PROSPERO registration: CRD42019131871.

RESULTS: Eighty-three reviews were selected and included 182 meta-analyses. Data were summarized visually and narratively using standardized mean differences with 95% confidence intervals as the primary outcome of interest. A large proportion of meta-analyses investigated fibromyalgia or mixed chronic pain, and psychological interventions were most commonly evaluated. Acceptance and commitment therapy for general chronic pain, and fluoxetine and web-based psychotherapy for fibromyalgia showed the most robust effects and can be prioritized for implementation in clinical practice. Exercise for arthritis, pharmacotherapy for neuropathic pain, self-regulatory psychotherapy for axial pain, and music therapy for general chronic pain showed large, significant effects, but estimates were derived from low- or critically low-quality reviews.

CONCLUSIONS: No single intervention type demonstrated substantial superiority across multiple pain populations. Other dimensions beyond efficacy, such as accessibility, safety, cost, patient preference, and efficacy for non-depressive outcomes should also be weighed when considering treatment options. Further effectiveness research is required for common pain types such as arthritis and axial pain, and common interventions such as opioids, anti-inflammatories and acupuncture.

Discipline Area Score
Psychologist 7 / 7
Physician 5 / 7
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Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

The results reflect the fact that chronic pain results from different comorbidities in different patients. Thus, treatment is best tailored towards individual needs.

Physician rater

This is a "more research is needed" review.

Psychologist rater

This very large data integration study did not find any large significant effects in high quality research for any intervention intended to reduce depressive symptoms across chronic pain subtypes. That ACT produced only medium size effects with mixed chronic pain patients has direct clinical relevance, However, these results may point to the tenacity of depression in this population.
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