Pamela J. Meredith, Georgia Rappel, Jenny Strong, Kirsty J. Bailey; Sensory Sensitivity and Strategies for Coping With Pain. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(4):6904240010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.014621
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OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to investigate the relationship between sensory processing styles and use of pain coping strategies in an experimental setting to understand individual differences in pain coping.
METHOD. A cross-sectional design was used with a convenience sample of 116 healthy adults. Measures of sensory processing style and mood state were collected before participation in a cold pressor pain-inducement task, and measures of coping strategies were collected afterward. Multiple regression models were constructed to examine relationships between sensory processing and coping strategies.
RESULTS. Sensory sensitivity and sensation avoiding were significantly associated with higher levels of catastrophizing. Sensation seeking was linked with active coping strategies, such as coping self-statements. Low registration was not significantly associated with any particular coping strategy after controlling for salient variables.
CONCLUSION. This study highlights associations between sensory processing and pain coping strategies, which may inform more tailored approaches to clinical practice for people in pain.
In line with the findings of Engel-Yeger and Dunn (2011b), low registration, sensation avoiding, and sensory sensitivity would be linked with pain catastrophizing.
Sensory sensitivity and low registration (passive sensory styles) would be associated with passive coping strategies.
Sensation avoiding and sensation seeking (active sensory styles) would be associated with active coping strategies.
Knowledge of this relationship may assist occupational therapy practitioners in identifying clients with vulnerabilities to maladaptive coping strategies, which may lead to poorer pain outcomes (Edwards et al., 2009).
Future studies are needed to understand the potential application of sensory processing in the pain arena, which may assist occupational therapy practitioners to support the management of people in pain using sensory-informed approaches.
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