Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) may be an effective treatment for chronic pain in older adults, according to research published in Pain Medicine.

Whitney Scott, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at King’s College London, and colleagues conducted a study examining the effectiveness of ACT for chronic pain, as well as the associations between psychological flexibility and treatment outcome variables. Sixty adults aged 65 and older with chronic pain were selected from a larger sample of 928 adults. Participants completed measures of pain, functioning, depression, and psychological flexibility at baseline, immediately post-treatment, and at 9-month follow-up. The researchers conducted a 2- or 4- week residential program for participants, based on the principles of ACT, delivered by an interdisciplinary team; treatment was designed to increase daily functioning via enhancement of key processes of openness, awareness, and committed action.

At post-treatment follow-up, participants showed a significant improvement in functioning and mental health. Additional improvements were observed in pain acceptance. Secondary analyses showed that changes in facets of psychological flexibility could be linked to improvements in both social functioning and mental health.

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“Future research is needed to determine how to maximize the impact of this treatment, particularly through greater impact on psychological flexibility,” Dr Scott concluded.


  1. Scott W, Daly A, Yu L, McCracken LM. Treatment of chronic pain for adults 65 and over: Analyses of outcomes and changes in psychological flexibility following interdisciplinary acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Pain Med. 2016; doi: 10.1093/pm/pnw073