Empathetic Care By Physicians Provides Better Pain Relief Than Most Other Modalities

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Our study found that patients treated by very empathic physicians reported better outcomes pertaining to pain intensity, back-related disability, and health-related quality of life than patients treated by slightly empathic physicians. Moreover, the effects attributed to physician empathy were more beneficial than those observed with non-pharmacological treatments, opioid therapy, or lumbar spine surgery.

PainRelief.com: How can empathetic care be taught and/or fostered?

Response: There has been ongoing debate about whether empathy is an innate trait or if it can be learned. Nevertheless, most agree that empathy can be acquired with the proper attention and training. A greater focus on teaching empathetic care should begin in medical school and continue as medical students transition to residency training programs. It is important to provide empathic physicians as role models in such programs.

Contemporary medical practice often poses a threat to physician empathy, including time constraints in dealing with complex cases involving chronic pain. Physicians must learn to overcome these challenges and avoid burnout and consequent loss of empathy and compassion.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should consider the association of physician empathy with chronic pain outcomes among various subgroups of patients with chronic pain

Another area of inquiry should involve the effect of physician empathy on chronic pain treatment, including its impact on opioid prescribing and opioid tapering or discontinuation. Owing to the methodological challenges in performing clinical trials of physician empathy, strategies should be developed to enhance the use of observational data to emulate clinical trials and approximate their results.


Licciardone JC, Tran Y, Ngo K, Toledo D, Peddireddy N, Aryal S. Physician Empathy and Chronic Pain Outcomes. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(4):e246026. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.6026

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Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by PainRelief.com