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Effectiveness of cognitive reappraisal and distraction for induced acute pain: A laboratory study.

OBJECTIVE: Cognitive reappraisal and distraction modulate pain; however, little is known about their effectiveness at different levels of pain intensity. Thus, the aim of this study has been to analyze the differential efficacy of both strategies to reduce perceived pain intensity and pain unpleasantness in low and moderate pain levels.

METHOD: 3 (emotion regulation strategy: cognitive reappraisal, distraction, and control) × 2 (intensity of the painful stimuli: low and moderate intensity) × 2 (time: pretest and posttest) mixed factorial design. Ninety healthy adults were randomly assigned to one of six experimental conditions. Pain-heat stimuli were administered with an advanced thermal stimulator. All participants completed the experimental pretest and posttest phases; in each phase, 12 pain stimuli were administered. Participants received brief training on how to apply cognitive reappraisal, distraction, and the control condition for the posttest phase. Data were collected from May 2022 to November 2022.

RESULTS: Analyses of repeated-measure analysis of variance showed that at posttest cognitive reappraisal and distraction were equally effective in reducing perceived pain intensity in low pain levels, while distraction was more effective than cognitive reappraisal in decreasing perceived pain intensity in moderate pain levels. Both distraction and cognitive reappraisal were effective in decreasing pain unpleasantness regardless of the intensity of the painful stimuli.

CONCLUSION: These findings highlighted the beneficial use of both strategies in the short term for pain relief, distraction being more effective in moderate pain levels. Applying both strategies to everyday situations that may cause short-term acute pain could be of great clinical relevance. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

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