The biopsychosocial approach systematically considers biological, psychological, and social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health, illness, and healthcare delivery. Fundamental to these tenets are:
- Biological, psychological, and social factors exist along a continuum of natural systems.
- Systematic consideration of psychological and social factors requires application of relevant social sciences, just as consideration of biological factors requires application of relevant natural sciences. Therefore, both the natural and social sciences are ‘basic’ to medical practice.
- Humanistic qualities are highly valued compliments to the biopsychosocial approach, which involves the application of the scientific method to diverse biological, psychological, and social phenomena as related to human health.
- While the biomedical approach takes the reductionist view that all phenomena are best understood at the lowest level of natural systems (e.g., cellular or molecular), the biopsychosocial approach recognizes that different clinical scenarios may be most usefully understood scientifically at several levels of the natural systems continuum.
Although pain research has traditionally focused on the sensory modalities and the neurological transmissions identified solely on a biological level, more recent theories (integrating the body, mind, and society) have been developed. The most heuristic perspective is known as the biopsychosocial model, with pain viewed as a dynamic interaction among and within the biological, psychological, and social factors unique to each individual. Pain is not purely a perceptual phenomenon in that the initial injury that has caused the pain also disrupts the body’s homeostatic systems which, in turn, produce stress and the initiation of complex programs to restore homeostasis.