Treating pain as a psychological issue, as well as a physical issue, is a relatively new approach in health-related research. The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is investigating a new interprofessional, interdisciplinary approach to pain management that integrates psychosocial care with physical care.
The study is funded by a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Led by primary investigator Deborah Ward, associate dean and health sciences associate clinical professor, and co-investigator Richard Wanlass, a clinical psychologist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, an interdisciplinary research team combining expertise in nursing, psychology and pain management will assess the effects of this approach in people undergoing spine surgery at the UC Davis Spine Center.
"Pain is an experience, not a physiologic variable that can be measured like blood pressure, heart rate or blood glucose," says Debra Fishman, a psychologist with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. "It occurs within a context, which is a person’s life – all their experiences, beliefs, past and current circumstances, interpersonal factors, and so on. Medical intervention tends to focus primarily on the physical aspects of pain."
Fishman says that because pain is both a psychological and physical problem, individuals experiencing pain following their surgery may become depressed and angry, which can hamper their recovery. Depressed and/or angry people often miss follow-up appointments, neglect to take their medications, do not follow their rehabilitation regimen, and simply do not follow through.
"Pain self-management strategies are usually introduced after pain becomes chronic and other interventions fail," says Wanlass.
The researchers hope to prove that having a nurse collaborate with the pain-sufferer in a psychosocial way early and often in the recovery process can lead to faster identification of problems and can help improve the quality of care received by that individual.
The core components of the project are the nurse-conducted, face-to-face sessions with the spinal surgery patients. The sessions last 15 minutes and focus on motivation and cognitive behavioral therapy strategies. The ultimate goal is to provide people with the tools and strategies to obtain the most from the intervention. The research team is recruiting individuals 18 years of age and older who are scheduled for spine surgery.
The need is significant. More than 81 million Americans over age 20 have one or more types of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease or congestive heart failure. Peripheral vascular disease is estimated to affect up to 10 million Americans. UC Davis Health System is improving cardiovascular health through state-of-the-art patient care, cutting-edge research, education and outreach.