Acceptance-based regulation of pain, which focuses on the allowing of pain and pain related thoughts and emotions, was found to modulate pain. However, results so far are inconsistent regarding different pain modalities and indices. Moreover, studies so far often lack a suitable control condition, focus on behavioral pain measures rather than physiological correlates, and often use between-subject designs, which potentially impede the evaluation of the effectiveness of the strategies. Therefore, we investigated whether acceptance-based strategies can reduce subjective and physiological markers of acute pain in comparison to a control condition in a within-subject design. To this end, participants (N = 30) completed 24 trials comprising 10 s of heat pain stimulation. Each trial started with a cue instructing participants to welcome and experience pain (acceptance trials) or to react to the pain as it is without employing any regulation strategies (control trials). In addition to pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings, heart rate (HR) and skin conductance (SC) were recorded. Results showed significantly decreased pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings for acceptance compared to control trials. Additionally, HR was significantly lower during acceptance compared to control trials, whereas SC revealed no significant differences. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of acceptance-based strategies in reducing subjective and physiological pain responses relative to a control condition, even after short training. Therefore, the systematic investigation of acceptance in different pain modalities in healthy and chronic pain patients is warranted.

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Keywords acceptance, acceptance-based strategy, acute pain, cognitive strategies, emotion regulation, pain ratings, pain regulation, psychological modulation of pain
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Journal Frontiers in Psychology
Haspert, V. (Valentina), Wieser, M.J, Pauli, P. (Paul), & Reicherts, P. (Philipp). (2020). Acceptance-Based Emotion Regulation Reduces Subjective and Physiological Pain Responses. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01514