Improving detection and treatment of distress in people with chronic musculoskeletal pain

Disease - Chronic Pain

Lead applicant - Professor Tamar Pincus

Organisation - Royal Holloway University of London

Type of grant - Full Application Health

Status of grant - Pending Start Date

Amount of the original award - £293,516.00

Start date - 1 January 2021

Reference - 22454

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?  

The purpose of this study is to better understand pain-related distress in people with musculoskeletal conditions. Researchers hope to identify characteristics that differentiate pain-related distress from depression; and to help GPs identify and treat it. The team will also conduct a pilot study of an intervention to help people manage their pain, improve their mood, and increase their engagement with activities they enjoy.

Why is this research important?  

People with chronic pain can feel low, exhausted and irritable, and have trouble doing the things they normally do. Doctors may identify this as depression and prescribe antidepressant medicines. However, the distress related to chronic musculoskeletal pain is different from clinical depression - many patients don’t want antidepressants, and don't improve after being prescribed them. This research will involve three stages. The first stage involves interviews with patients and GPs to explore how these groups understand pain-related distress differs from depression. The second stage will involve a questionnaire study of people with chronic musculoskeletal pain and people with clinical depression to identify characteristics of pain-related distress and distinguish it from clinical depression. In stage three researchers will work with patients to develop and test a pilot patient-centred intervention to reduce pain-related distress. The team will explore face-to-face support as well as support delivered online, to create an intervention people find useful and accessible.

How will the findings benefit patients?  

This research will improve our understanding of pain-related distress in people with chronic musculoskeletal pain, and how it differs from depression. If the pilot test is successful, further funding may be sought to conduct a full study of the new treatment, which could help people with chronic pain to improve their symptoms, mood and engagement.