Group calls for government agencies to tackle chronic pain

A working group commissioned by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) recommends that top government agencies conduct research to develop new strategies to manage the "widespread condition" of chronic pain.

The NCCIH, a division of the National Institutes of Health, calls for collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to conduct large-scale research studies on non-drug approaches to managing chronic pain--specifically among veterans and military personnel--according to the working group's report.

The NCCIH recommendation came after its working group held five meetings to hear presentations from experts on pain research, study design, and complementary and integrative approaches to pain management, many of whom agreed that "in general, pain is poorly managed and better strategies are needed."

Hospitals also have worked to improve their approach to pain management, in part because postsurgical pain evaluations correlate with overall patient satisfaction scores, FierceHealthcare has reported. Though recent reports indicate that healthcare facilities are making progress in this effort, the improvement is not at the rate industry experts would like.

The NCCIH recommendation targets agencies that serve the military because "chronic pain is a major public health problem that affects more than 100 million Americans, and research shows that it may disproportionately affect military personnel and veterans," Lloyd Michener, M.D., chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Duke University and chair of the working group, said in an announcement.

The agencies' research should incorporate nondrug treatments, an integrative model of care and holistic approaches, the working group recommends, as well as examine the impact of pain on patients' quality of life and how it affects their use of opioids and other drugs. The group also recommends that research should focus on patients in the early stages of chronic pain.

The VA already has taken steps to improve pain management among veterans, as its Chronic Pain Rehabilitation center in Tampa, Florida, offers a three-week "boot camp" for patients that aims to improve function and decrease reliance on pain medications, according to FierceHealthcare.

"Our working group believes that by bringing the DoD and VA infrastructure together with NCCIH's research expertise, we can create unique opportunities to learn more about how to integrate complementary health approaches into pain management," said Eric Schoomaker, M.D., Ph.D., professor of military and emergency medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and former army surgeon general.

To learn more:
- check out the report
- here's the announcement