Osteoarthritis: Pain Relief "Only a Phone Call Away?"

Thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), scientists at Stony Brook (NY) University have begun testing the effectiveness of a telephone- and nurse-based system that extends an osteoarthritis (OA) pain management system beyond the doctors' offices. Joan Broderick, Ph.D., an associate professor in Stony Brook's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, is using ARRA funds from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to obtain the technology and staff to carry out the project.

Even the best arthritis medicines, say researchers, can leave many patients with pain. Dr. Broderick's study will determine if the proven success of a 10-visit, office-based treatment program can be extended by using an automated phone system to link patients to community nurses. The office treatment focuses on learning new skills for coping with pain, and the phone follow-up strategy will reinforce and extend the improvements patients gain from the office treatment for months after it is completed.

It is not unusual, say scientists, for patients to initially benefit from pain management, but then gradually slide back to their original level of pain. The new telephone-based addition to office treatment should help people with OA (and other chronic pain conditions) maintain better control of their pain, and should be a highly cost-effective way to provide health care.

For 4 months, study participants will make a daily call to a phone center and answer 25 questions rating their pain experiences for that day. With each call, patients will be offered daily practical pain coping suggestions learned during the office treatment phase. At the end of each month, nurses will examine patients' pain ratings and record messages for them based on the nurses' analyses of patients' pain data.

According to Dr. Broderick, funding from ARRA has allowed the research team 1) to pursue collaboration with the University of Vermont's Magdalena Naylor, M.D., Ph.D., an expert in telephone-based support for people in pain; 2) hire staff to conduct the research; and 3) acquire the telephone/computer technology required by the project. Study participants are selected from OA patients already enrolled in the office-based treatment program at sites in New York and Virginia.

"If successful, our research will set the stage for training nurses across the country to provide treatment for millions of people, not only those with pain from arthritis, but those with pain from many other chronic diseases," says Dr. Broderick. "It will also help to bring arthritis pain management out of the laboratory and into the community."

# # #

The activity above is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about the National Institutes of Health's ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at https://grants.nih.gov/recovery/. To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit www.hhs.gov/recovery. To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit www.recovery.gov.

Last Reviewed: