Does working alliance have an influence on pain and physical functioning in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain; a systematic review

Sandra Jorna-Lakke, Sebastiaan Meerman

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Working alliance can possibly influence patients’ experiences of pain and physical functioning. The aim of this systematic review is to merge evidence from literature regarding the influence of patients’ perceived working alliance on pain and physical functioning in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
A systematic review in which randomized controlled trials and cohort studies were included that assessed the influence of working alliance on either pain or physical functioning in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. The methodological quality of the included studies were rated by means of the PEDro score and STROBE statement.
The first step of the search process provided 1469 studies. After screening, five studies were included in this review including one RCT and four cohort studies of patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. One cohort study was rated as low methodological quality and the other studies as high methodological quality. There was a significant effect of working alliance on the outcome of pain severity, pain interference, and physical functioning in all studies. Physical functioning was measured by means of questionnaires and functional capacity tests. The effect on questionnaires was positive; the effect was conflicting on functional capacity.
When influencing pain with treatment, a patient’s perceived working alliance during treatment does predict pain reduction and improvement in physical functioning. It is recommended to inquire about a patient’s working alliance during treatment in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of compassionate health care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2016



  • working alliance
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • functional capacity

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