The Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway is launching a new research study involving people with chronic pain and at least one other long-term condition. The new treatment programme will be online-based, and is supported by Health Research Board. This study was designed by expert psychologists and physiotherapists. The aim of this study is to help people who are managing multiple chronic health conditions at once.
This new study will involve an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) trial and eight online sessions. The online sessions can be completed in the participant’s own home. The study is open to people all over Ireland, and will take place in the coming months. GPs and other health professionals around the country are being asked to refer suitable people to the study.
Having multiple chronic conditions is known as multimorbidity. According to NUI Galway, research has shown that having multimorbidity is associated with a number of negative outcomes, such as a decline in physical and mental functioning, a decreased quality of life, and a greater risk of mortality. This new ACT trial will be based on the emerging clinical science that mindfulness and psychological wellbeing can help manage chronic health conditions and multimorbidity.
The free ACT online sessions will focus on the values and goals that are unique to each person in the trial. Participants will be provided with instructions on a range of activity-pacing techniques to encourage more consistent levels of activity in their daily lives. Mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy techniques will also be used in the online sessions, to help identify and challenge negative thinking patterns.
People who take part in the ACT trial will not need to attend a clinic or visit NUI Galway at any stage. The study is tailored for people who want to learn effective ways of managing their health conditions. Participants can continue to visit their own physiotherapist and access their usual medical services while taking part in the study.
Dr Brian Slattery is the coordinator of this study at the Centre for Pain Research in NUI Galway. He said that psychological therapies are beneficial to people who suffer from chronic conditions, but there is problem with gaining access to such treatments.
“In this trial, we will offer an online programme to people all over the country, with any combination of conditions, to try alongside any existing treatments they are already using,” he explained.
“Researchers have begun to administer studies online in the hopes of providing accessible, cost-effective, and self-managed treatments to participants,” said Dr Slattery.
“Online interventions allow users to access treatment when and where they choose, and allow researchers and healthcare practitioners to reach a larger and more diverse group of people,” he added.
Dr Slattery pointed out that this isn’t the first time NUI Galway has carried out online research.
“Online studies providing support for people with health conditions are becoming more frequent. The Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway has studied a number of online programmes similar to this, however, this is the first one focusing on multimorbidity,” he explained.
The research coordinator added that the Centre for Pain Research is currently conducting another online study, concerning teenagers who have arthritis.
He said that the number of people suffering from chronic pain is relatively high.
“Chronic pain is a highly prevalent condition, with previous research by the Centre for Pain Research estimating the incidence in Ireland at about 35.5% of the adult population.”
It is also becoming more common for people to suffer from multiple conditions at once.
“Multimorbidity is increasingly becoming an issue facing health services, and is now considered the norm rather than the exception in primary care,” he said.
Dr Slattery also claimed that ACT therapy can be quite successful in treating chronic health conditions.
“Acceptance and Commitment Therapy promotes psychological flexibility, in this case, the idea of separating yourself from your health and its symptoms, by recognising and accepting negative thoughts and feelings, identifying personal values, and committing to actions which achieve those values,” he explained.
“ACT has been studied in relation to a number of chronic conditions, including chronic pain, depression, diabetes, post-traumatic stress, and has shown encouraging results.”
Dr Brian McGuire is the study supervisor and also has high hopes for this research.
“This is a promising new online pain management programme and we are hopeful it will be of benefit to people with multimorbidity,” he said.
For further information and suitable patient referrals, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit: www.nuigalway.ie/centre-for-pain-research/
By Áine Kenny
Photo Credit: arthritis M on Flickr