By Addy Hatch, WSU Spokane
SPOKANE, Wash. – Marian Wilson, an assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing, is joining a team of scientists who’ll lead a federally funded, $2.5 million study investigating whether an online pain management program can help patients with chronic pain reduce or eliminate the amount of prescription opioids they take.
Wilson is a co-investigator on the EMPOWER study with lead investigator Theresa Winhusen, director of the Addiction Sciences Division in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The five-year study will involve 400 noncancer patients who are being treated for chronic pain with long-term opioid therapy at University of Cincinnati Health and Duke Health.
Chronic pain management tool
A web-based pain management tool, called Goalistics Chronic Pain Management Program, has been found in small previous trials to decrease patients’ pain and reduce opioid use. The EMPOWER study will expand the sample size, and researchers will have access to patients’ clinical records to accurately measure opioid use.
Goalistics teaches relaxation exercises and psychological approaches to managing pain, and encourages goal-setting and physical activity – the kind of comprehensive, holistic pain-management care patients might get through a multidisciplinary pain clinic in an urban area.
Wilson, who has used Goalistics in previous research, said many patients with chronic pain don’t have access to that level of care, and instead are treated by primary care providers who have had little training in pain management.
The EMPOWER study hopes to give primary care providers another tool to use in helping patients manage chronic pain, while also responding to soaring opioid addiction rates and overdose deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended decreasing the use of opioids for treating pain.
“It’s a really difficult situation telling people, ‘Sorry, you can’t have your opioids, but we’re not really giving you an alternative,’” Wilson said. An online pain management program could be “a lifeline extended to patients, another tool to help manage pain. It’s something that can give them some hope and show that people understand what they’re going through.”
The research is being funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. Wilson said she’ll function as the study’s pain and online-program expert, while Winhusen, the lead investigator, will oversee the clinical trial.
- Addy Hatch, communication director, WSU College of Nursing, 509-324-7340, firstname.lastname@example.org