New plan for pain offers hope

March 24, 2009 3:42:03 PM PDT
Pain that goes on for weeks, or months or even years is not an unusual problem. Millions of Americans experience it. A new study published Tuesday says expert care and support can improve the treatment for patients with chronic pain.

Dr. Steven Dobscha, of the Portland Veterans Medical Center, says chronic pain can take its toll on the patient.

"It leads to disability," he said. "What's called functional impairment. It prevents people from being able to go about their daily lives. It interferes with their mental health, their ability to relate to other people at times, certainly their ability to work."

Investigators at a veterans' hospital in Portland tried a treament plan called, "collaborative care," to see if they could get better results for people with chronic, non-cancer pain.

Half the patients received their usual care with their primary doctor. The other half, the intervention group, participated in seminars on chronic pain and saw doctors who had additional education on chronic pain.

There were also two pain specialists who provided consultations and monitoring.

According to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the intervention group recorded a better outcome.

Depression is also a large part of the battle for patients with chronic pain. Here, too, there was improvement.

"There were significant improvements in the levels of depression in the intervention group," Dr. Dobscha said. "There were better ratings of improvement of change in the intervention group as compared to the usual care group."

The researchers say that while the improvements were modest, they're important becaue the patients in the study were older and had been living with pain for a log time.

They say the findings reinforce the idea that a collaborative care approach is more effective in treating many chronic conditions.

For more on pain treatment, go to http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/chronic_pain.htm, or http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/pain.html

Web Produced by Ilene Rosen


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