Managing chronic pain in people with learning disabilities: A case study

Sarah Lewis, Dorothy Bell, David Gillanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chronic pain is a prevalent, under-diagnosed problem in the learning disability population. This is in part due to communication problems, unrecognized pain behaviours and the effects of medication. As a consequence, chronic pain often goes untreated and causes ongoing distress. This paper initially describes the main research that has been carried out into learning disabilities and chronic pain management and then goes on to detail the case of a 32-year-old woman with mild-moderate learning disabilities who has been suffering from chronic pain for 16 months. A multi-modal and multidisciplinary assessment was carried out to explore the physical and psychological underpinnings of her pain and its impact on her quality of life. A cognitive-behavioural pain management intervention was developed by adapting a manual for non-learning disabled adults to meet the physical, social and cognitive needs of the client. Sessions were carried out once a week for 4 months and improvements were reported in the level of pain intensity, levels of anxiety and depression and the range of activities she took part in.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-98
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Learning Disabilities
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2007


  • Chronic pain
  • Learning disabilities
  • Pain management

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