There is growing recognition that persistent pain is a complex and multidimensional experience stemming from the interrelationship among biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors. Chronic pain patients use a number of cognitive and behavioral strategies to cope with their pain, including religious/spiritual forms of coping, such as prayer, and seeking spiritual support to manage their pain. This article will explore the relationship between the experience of pain and religion/spirituality with the aim of understanding not only why some people rely on their faith to cope with pain, but also how religion/spirituality may impact the experience of pain and help or hinder the coping process. We will also identify future research priorities that may provide fruitful research in illuminating the relationship between religion/spirituality and pain.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abraido-Lanza, A. F., Vasquex, E., & Echeverria, S. E. (2004). En las manos de Dios (In God’s hands): religious and other forms of coping among Latinos with arthritis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72, 91–102.
Affleck, G., Urrows, S., Tennen, H., & Higgins, P. (1992). Daily coping with pain from rheumatoid arthritis: patterns and correlates. Pain, 51, 221–229.
Alexander, C. N., Rainforth, M. V., & Gelderloos, P. (1991). Transcendental meditation, self-actualization, and psychological health: A conceptual overview and statistical metaanalysis. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6, 189–248.
Alexander, C. N., Robinson, D. W., Orme-Johnson, R. H., Schneider, R. H., & Walton, K. G. (1994). The effects of transcendental meditation compared to other methods of relaxation and meditation reducing risk factors, morbidity, and mortality. Homeostasis, 35, 243–264.
Astin, J. A., (1997). Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation: Effects on psychological symptomology, sense of control, and spiritual experiences. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 66, 97–106.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New York: General Learning Press.
Borg, J., Andree B., Soderstrom H., & Farde L. (2003). The serotonin system and spiritual experiences. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1965–1969.
Buenaver, L. F. (2003). Evaluating the role of religious coping in a self-reported headache population. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Virginia Commonwealth University.
Burke, M., & Flaherty, M. J. (1993). Coping strategies and health status of older arthritic women. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 18, 7–13.
Bush, E. G., Rye, M. S., Brant, C. R., Emery, E., Pargament, K. I., & Riessinger, C. A. (1999). Religious coping with chronic pain. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 24, 249–260.
Carlson, C. A., Bacaseta, P. E., & Simanton, D. A. (1988). A controlled evaluation of devotional meditation and progressive relaxation. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 16, 362–368.
Carver, & Harris (2000). How important is the perception of personal control? Studies of early stage breast cancer patients. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 139–149.
Contrada, R. J., Goyal, T. M., Cather, C., Rafalson, L., Idler, E. L., & Krause, T. J. (2004). Psychosocial factors in outcomes of heart surgery: The impact of religious involvement and depressive symptoms. Health Psychology, 23, 227–238.
Covic, T., Adamson, B., Spencer, D., & Howe, G. (2003). A biopsychosocial model of pain and depression in rheumatoid arthritis: A 12-month longitudinal study. Rheumatology, 42, 1287–1294.
Engel, G. L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: A challenge for biomedicine. Science, 196, 129–136.
Engel, G. L. (1992). How much longer must medicine’s science be bound by a seventeenth century world view? Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 57, 3–16.
Ferguson, P. C. (1980). An integrative meta-analysis of psychological studies investigating the treatment outcomes of meditation techniques. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Univ of Colorado, Boulder, CO.
French, D. J., Holroyd, K. A., Pinell, C., Malinoski, P. T., O’Donnell, F., & Hill, K. R. (2000). Perceived self-efficacy and headache related disability. Headache, 40, 647–656.
Harrison, M. O., Edwards, C. L., Koenig, H. G., Bosworth, H. B., DeCastro, L., & Wood, M. (2005). Religiosity, spirituality, and pain, in patients with sickle cell disease. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders, 193, 250–257.
Hill, P. C., & Pargament, K. I. (2003). Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: Implications for physical and mental health research. American Psychologist, 58, 64–74.
Idler, E. L., & Kasl, S. V. (1997). Religion among disabled and non-disabled elderly persons II: Attendance at religious services as a predictor of the course of disability. Journal of Gerontology, 52B, S306–S316.
Keefe, F. J., Affleck, G., Lefebvre, J., Underwood, L., Caldwell, D. S., Drew, J., et al. (2001). Living with rheumatoid arthritis: The role of daily religious and spiritual coping. Journal of Pain, 2, 101–110.
Keefe, F. J., Caldwell, D. S., Martines, S, Nunley, J, Beckham, J, & Williams, D. A. (1991). Analyzing pain in rheumatoid arthritis patients: Pain coping strategies in patients who have had knee replacement surgery. Pain, 46, 153–160.
Keefe, F. J., Caldwell, D. S., Queen, K. T., Gil, K. M., Martines, S., Crissom, J. E., et al. (1987). Pain coping strategies in osteoarthritis patients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 208–212.
Keefe, F. J., Kashikar-Zuck, S., Robinson, E., Salley, A., Beaupre, P., Caldwell, D., et al. (1997a). Pain coping strategies that predict patient’s and spouses’ ratings of patients’ self-efficacy. Pain, 73, 191–199.
Keefe, F. J., Lefebvre, J. C., Egert, J. R., Afflect, G., Sullivan, M. J., & Caldwell, D. S. (2000). The relationship of gender to pain, pain behavior, and disability in osteoarthritis patients: the role of catastrophizing. Pain, 87, 325–334.
Keefe, F. J., Lefebvre, J. C., Maixner, W., Salley, A. N., & Caldwell, D. S. (1997b). Self-efficacy for arthritis pain: Relationship to perception of thermal laboratory pain stimuli. Arthritis Care and Research, 10, 177–184.
Koenig, H. G. (2001). Religion and medicine IV: Religion, physical health, and clinical implications. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 31, 321–336.
Koenig, H. G. (2002). An 83-year-old woman with chronic illness and strong religious beliefs. Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 288, 487–493.
Koenig H. G. (2003). Chronic pain: Biomedical and spiritual approaches. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press.
Koenig, H. G., McCullough, M. E., & Larson, D. B. (2001). Handbook of religion and health. New York: Oxford University Press.
Krause N. (2006). Church-based social support and mortality. Journals of Gerontology Series B-Psychological Sciences & Social Sciences, 61, S140–146.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
Lefebvre, J. C., Keefe, F. J., Affleck, G., Raezer, L. B., Starr, K., Caldwell, D. S., & Tennen, H. (1999). The relationship of arthritis self-efficacy to daily pain, daily mood, and daily pain coping in rheumatoid arthritis patients. Pain, 80, 425–435.
McCullough, M. E., Hoyt, W. T., Larson, D. B., Koenig, H. G., & Thoresen, C. (2000). Religious involvement and mortality: A meta-analytic review. Health Psychology, 19, 211–222.
McKee, D. D., & Chappel, J. N. (1992). Spirituality and medical practice. Journal of Family Practice, 35, 205–208.
Melzack, R. (1999). From the gate to the neuromatrix. Pain, S6, S121–S126.
Melzack R, & Wall P. D. (1965). Pain mechanisms: a new theory. Science, 150, 971–979.
Middleton, P., & Pollard, H. (2005). Are chronic low back pain outcomes improved with co-management of concurrent depression? Chiropractic and Osteopathy, 13, 8.
Pargament, K. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. Guilford Press: New York, NY.
Pargament, K. I. (2002b). Is religion nothing but…? Explaining religion versus explaining religion away. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 239–244.
Pargament K. I., Koenig H. G., & Perez L. M. (2000). Comprehensive measure of religious coping: Development and initial validation of the RCOPE. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56, 519–543.
Pargament, K. I., Koenig H. G., Tarakeshwar, N., & Hahn, J. (2001). Religious struggle as a predictor of mortality among medically ill elderly patients: A 2-year longitudinal study. Archives of Internal Medicine, 161, 1881–1885.
Pargament, K. I., McCarthy, S., Shah, P., Ano, G., Tarakeshwar, N., Wachholtz, A. B., et al. (2004). Religion and HIV: A Review of the Literature and Clinical Implications. Southern Medical Journal, 97, 1201–1209.
Powell L. H., Shahabi L., & Thoresen C. E. (2003). Religion and spirituality: Linkages to physical health. American Psychologist, 58, 36–52.
Rapp, S. R., Rejeski, W. J., & Miller, M. E. (2000). Physical function among older adults with knee pain: the role of pain coping skills. Arthritis Care & Research, 13, 270–279.
Rippentrop, E. (2005). A review of the role of religion and spirituality in chronic pain populations. Rehabilitation Psychology, 50, 278–284.
Rippentrop E. A., Altmaier E. M., Chen J. J., Found, E. M., & Keffala, V. J. (2005). The relationship between religion/spirituality and physical health, mental health, and pain in a chronic pain population. Pain, 116, 311–321.
Rosenstiel, A. K., & Keefe, F. J. (1983). The use of coping strategies in chronic low back pain patients: relationships to patient characteristics and current adjustment. Pain, 17, 33–44.
Skevington, S. M., Carse, M. S., & Williams, A. C. (2001). Validation of the WHOQOL-100: Pain management improves quality of life for chronic pain patients. Clinical Journal of Pain, 17, 264–275.
Sulmasy, D. P. (2002). A biopsychosocial-spiritual model for the care of patients at the end of life. The Gerontologist, 42, 24–33.
Turner, J.A, & Clancy, S. (1986). Strategies for coping with chronic low back pain: relationship to pain and disability. Pain, 24, 355–364.
Wachholtz A. B. (2006). Does spirituality matter? Effects of meditative content and orientation on migraineurs. Doctoral Dissertation, Bowling Green State University. Available at: http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/view.cgi?bgsu1143662175. Retrieved April, 2006.
Wachholtz, A. B., & Pargament, K. I. (2005). Is spirituality a critical ingredient of meditation? Comparing the effects of spiritual meditation, secular meditation, and relaxation on spiritual, psychological, cardiac, and pain outcomes. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 28, 369–384.
Yates, J. W., Chalmer, B. J., St. James, P., Follansbee, M., & McKegney, F. P. (1981). Religion in patients with advanced cancer. Medical and Pediatric Oncology, 9, 121–128.
About this article
Cite this article
Wachholtz, A.B., Pearce, M.J. & Koenig, H. Exploring the Relationship between Spirituality, Coping, and Pain. J Behav Med 30, 311–318 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-007-9114-7
- chronic pain