• Shared Medical Decision Making;
  • Chronic Pain;
  • Pain Management;
  • Gender Bias


Objective.  This article reviews the literature on patient–provider interactions among patients with chronic pain conditions with an emphasis on shared medical decision making.

Results.  Key findings suggest that: 1) patients with chronic pain and health care providers are likely to have opposing attitudes and goals, with patients seeking “to be understood as individuals” and struggling to have their pain concerns legitimized while their health care providers may place a greater focus on diagnosis and treatment than quality of life concerns; and 2) female patients may face additional challenges when communicating their pain concerns with providers. Increased emphasis on communication training and efforts to promote a shared decision making process are proposed as possible mechanisms to improve patient–provider interactions.

Conclusions.  Treatment of chronic pain is often complex and may be further complicated when patients and health care providers have differing goals and attitudes concerning treatment. Difficulties in engaging in collaborative treatment decision making may result. Efforts to enhance patient–provider communication as well as to systematically examine nonspecific treatment factors are likely to promote effective management of chronic pain.