Can Shared Reading Help with Chronic Pain? Study Says It May

Can Shared Reading Help with Chronic Pain? Study Says It May

By Staff

The University of Liverpool, The Reader and the Royal Liverpool University Hospitals Trust conducted a study to see if shared reading can help with chronic pain, and found that is a useful therapy for chronic pain sufferers.  Their findings were published in the BMJ Journal for Medical Humanities.

The study compared Shared Reading (a literature-based intervention developed by national charity The Reader) to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as an intervention for chronic pain sufferers.

The University of Liverpool announced the following in a release to the public on the study”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It’s most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.

The current evidence base in respect of chronic pain supports the use of standard psychological interventions, CBT in particular. CBT’s benefits, while useful are shown by recent research to be both limited and short-term.

Shared Reading is used in a range of environments that have similarities with chronic pain, in that the conditions involved can often be chronic and unsolvable, as in the case of dementia, prisons (people locked in, life halted and future inevitably affected by baggage of past), and severe mental illness (with recurring episodes).

The model is based on small groups (2-12 people) coming together weekly to read literature - short stories, novels and poetry - together aloud. The reading material ranges across genres and period, and is chosen for its intrinsic interest, not pre-selected with a particular ‘condition’ in mind.

Validating Experiences

Regular pauses are taken to encourage participants to reflect on what is being read, on the thoughts or memories the book or poem has stirred, or on how the reading matter relates to their own lives.

Group members participate voluntarily, usually in relation to what is happening in the text itself, and what may be happening within themselves as individuals (personal feelings and thoughts, memories and experiences), responding to the shared presence of the text within social group discussion.

CBT allowed participants to exchange personal histories of living with chronic pain in ways which validated their experience. However, in CBT, participants focused exclusively on their pain with ‘no thematic deviation’.

In SR, by contrast, the literature was a trigger to recall and expression of diverse life experiences - of work, childhood, family members, relationships — related to the entire life-span, not merely the time-period affected by pain, or the time-period pre-pain as contrasted with life in the present. This in itself has a potentially therapeutic effect in helping to recover a whole person, not just an ill one.


As part of the study participants with severe chronic pain symptoms were recruited by the pain clinic at Broadgreen NHS Hospital Trust having given informed consent. A 5-week CBT group and a 22-week SR group for chronic pain patients ran in parallel, with CBT group-members joining the SR group after the completion of CBT.

The study found that CBT showed evidence of participants ‘managing’ emotions by means of systematic techniques, where Shared Reading (SR) turned passive experience of suffering emotion into articulate contemplation of painful concerns.

Dr Josie Billington, Deputy Researcher, Centre for Research into Reading, said: “Our study indicated that shared reading could potentially be an alternative to CBT in bringing into conscious awareness areas of emotional pain otherwise passively suffered by chronic pain patients.

“The encouragement of greater confrontation and tolerance of emotional difficulty that Sharing Reading provides makes it valuable as a longer-term follow-up or adjunct to CBT’s concentration on short-term management of emotion.”

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Authored by: Staff

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Bob Schubring

Another example of a “study” discovering that feces stink and blood is red. People with strong to severe pain, find pain flares so debilitating, that they are afraid to get a pain flare while in unfamiliar surroundings, as they need a place to lay down, stretch, and rest until their breakthrough meds kick in. This creates anxiety, over both the pain itself, and the danger that they will become incapacitated in a public place, among people who have no idea what to do for the patient.

That’s a lot of anxiety.

Because anxiety induces muscle tension and muscle fatigue, any muscular pain the patient feels, will get worse from the anxiety.

Therefore, relieving anxiety by any means possible, is going to help pain patients cope with pain.

SR apparently is a tool that helps people form relationships with caregivers and fellow patients. This reduces their anxiety. Which makes some of their pain less disabling.

What’s absurd about the existence of this study, is that apparently the hospitals in Britain need to prove that these kinds of programs have value for patient care.

In pre-Obama America, volunteers used to do these kinds of things for hospital patients. Nobody charged any money for it.

Apparently the Brits don’t have that same luxury, of accepting help freely given by anybody who cares enough to give some away? I’d love to know!

Ibin Jerkedround

When CBT helps me to meet my monthly obligations in order to have life and have it more abundantly then, I will be glad to sit in a group, take my turn reading and listening to poetry, short stories, and even novels. At this point I am 58 years old, it will take 3 years or longer for my impending disability approval to go through “proper channels” thus enabling me to actually continue…….living. Right now I must pay the utility bill, the communication bill, insurance requirements so I can drive to the grocery store and buy food, and all the other FULLY taxed incidentals to pay for so I and my wife may be able to survive. I have no car payment, no house payment, take no vacation. Not saying these things a chronic pain patient should not have and do.On the contrary. I feel blessed to have as little recurring obligations as my wife and I do IF I did have the time and inclination to have “group therapy” to help ease my non cancer chronic pain, I would do so. At present, I still go to my pain management specialist every two months, and get lowered in dosage every two months on the opioid medication that has helped me survive for the last 20 years. I will continue to be lowered on the medication until I am prescribed 80%, that’s eighty percent LESS than what has helped me to survive for the last 20 years. The closest I will come to CBT is writing to all the politicians I think will help the plight of the chronic pain afflicted and hopefully encourage others to do so also. The CDC “guideline” philosophy to “lower” opioid mortality is to strike the problem from the rear. Sneak up on the unsuspecting. The OBVIOUS problem with opioid mortality is irresponsibility. Irresponsible folks that need to account for themselves. We, the chronic pain treated know that if we are irresponsible with our medication then, we no longer will be prescribed our medication. However the philosophy behind the misguided “guideline” is to lower the prescribing of, lower the manufacturing of, and therefore lower the overall availability of, opioid medication. We, a democracy, are having this misguided attempt at a “good” outcome forced upon the innocent. Where is the justice in denying the responsible folks a medication that actually helps ease pain by, the removal of it from society? We know there is one spy “in the barracks” so, line all 30 of them up and. shoot ’em all! Make all 10 million people suffer to get at the 5,000 that are irresponsible. The statistic of opioid mortality will sound better when the “guideline” reaches its goal but, what WORSE data will the “guideline” create? Death by suicide? People filing for disability income that were working with sufficient medication? More mental health problems? Open the door WIDER for illicit opioid movement? BY FAR the largest percentage of the non cancer chronic pain prescribed people are… Read more »

Jean Price

In a sense, this is just another form of distraction therapy combined with support and socializing—all valid to help cope….yet none really reducing pain! Of course it helps to be with people and have our minds stimulated…when we can! That’s the key here…WHEN and IF we can! I would much rather visit my grandchildren and read some books to them…and discuss the books with them!! Yet pain keeps me from this. So isn’t that the bigger issue here?

When will our illustrious and learned researchers start looking at supporting the use of opioids to actually ALLOW us to follow through with other treatment modalities?! Since decreasing our pain ENOUGH TO participate seems to be our biggest hurdle! Otherwise this type of therapy comes across as out of touch with just how much pain limits us from participating in life…and limits us finding our own “therapies” within our families and friends…who would love to have MORE of us join them in daily life!!

Most of us had active lives and a lot of stimulation socially BEFORE pain flooded every part of our lives! This is what we need help with…not research on how “book clubs” for those with pain could help!! Truly, this is a little frustrating when I think of how few could engage in this activity to “help” their pain levels!! Even though I realize how stimulating groups can be and how much can be gained frim reading! There must be a level of relief TO ALLOW this, or else all is lost! And participants would be hard to find…and have inconsistent attendance due to their flares of pain! REALITY MUST BE PART OF RESEARCH, and this doesn’t seem like much of a realistic therapy plan!! No matter how good the books are!

Tim Mason

And that my friends is what National Pain Report is for us in the US. The Blog is actually of equal or greater value than a coloring book or puzzle. Music is valuable and laughter is good medicine.


Another condescending article….obviously written by someone who knows absolutely NOTHING about chronic pain. Just about anything that DISTRACTS you from thinking about your pain, is just that….a distraction…not pain relief. SMDH.