Effectiveness of caregiver interventions for people with cancer and non-cancer related chronic pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Toby O. Smith, Matthew Pearson, Matthew J. Smith, Jessica Fletcher, Lisa Irving, Sarah Lister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: People with chronic pain frequently have difficulties in completing everyday tasks to maintain independence and quality of life. Informal caregivers may provide support to these individuals. However, the effectiveness of interventions to train and support these individuals in caregiving remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to systematically review the evidence to determine the effectiveness of caregiver interventions to support informal caregivers of people with chronic pain. 

Methods: A systematic review of published and unpublished literature databases was undertaken (9 April 2021). Trials reporting clinical outcomes of caregiver interventions to train informal caregivers to support community-dwelling people with chronic pain were included. Meta-analysis was undertaken and each outcome was assessed using Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation. 

Results: Twenty-seven studies were eligible (N = 3427 patients). Twenty-four studies assessed patients with cancer pain and three with musculoskeletal pain. No other patient groups were identified. There was very low-quality evidence that caregiver interventions were beneficial for caregiver health-related quality of life (standardised mean difference = 0.26, 95% confidence interval = 0.01 to 0.52; N = 231). There was moderate-quality evidence that caregiving interventions were effective in reducing pain in the short-term (standardised mean difference = 0.16, 95% confidence interval = −0.29 to −0.03). There was low-quality evidence that caregiving interventions had no beneficial effect over usual care for psychological outcomes, fatigue, coping or physical function in the long-term. 

Conclusion: Caregiving interventions may be effective for patients and caregivers but only in the shorter-term and for a limited number of outcomes. There is insufficient evidence examining the effectiveness of caregiver interventions for people with non-cancer-related pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-83
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Pain
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Pain
  • cancer
  • carer
  • musculoskeletal
  • spousal
  • symptom management

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