Stanford University has been conducting an online study of resilience in chronic pain.
A few weeks ago, Stanford researchers asked the National Pain Report if it would be ok to ask our readers to participate in the survey. We thought it was a good idea, and so apparently did our audience. The response to the surveys was swift.
“We received a remarkable number of responses and met our recruitment goal in less than two days,” said Dr. Drew Sturgeon, a post-doctoral fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “In total, we received full responses from 336 participants in the first wave of our study (in January) and 346 participants in the second wave of our study (in April), which has provided us an excellent sample for our analysis.”
We checked in with Dr. Sturgeon recently to see what the results are saying about how those who suffer from pain deal with their condition.
The data are undergoing a rigorous review and Dr. Sturgeon said it may be several months until final conclusions are printed. But he indicated that there is valuable information that may guide not only future treatment models, but also may help predict how someone will react to a chronic pain condition.
Said Dr. Sturgeon:
“Though our analysis of the data is still ongoing, our results thus far broadly suggest that we have been able to develop a tool that effectively quantifies and studies resilience in chronic pain. Our preliminary data suggest that resilience is related to other important aspects of the experience of chronic pain, such as physical function, fatigue, and mood, but is also something distinct from these measures. We believe that this is an exciting finding, as it may suggest that resilience to pain is a useful target for future therapies.”
He reminded us in a phone conversation recently that resilience in chronic pain is understudied and its impact is underappreciated. In clinical practice, it is often noted that some individuals struggle with chronic pain, while others find effective means to cope.
Can this research ultimately lead to ways to help chronic pain sufferers to better endure their condition? Dr. Sturgeon hopes so.
“We intend to use our data to refine our measure of chronic pain resilience, and ultimately to develop an intervention that will help people develop greater resilience, which we believe will improve well-being and overall quality of life for people facing chronic or recurrent pain,” he said.
Stanford’s related work on the psychology of chronic pain suggests that pain can significantly disrupt a person’s physical abilities by increasing their level of fatigue (Sturgeon, Darnall, Kao, & Mackey, 2014), but can also decrease emotional well-being by affecting social relationships (Sturgeon, Zautra, & Arewasikporn, 2014) and how pain is perceived or interpreted (Sturgeon & Zautra, 2013a, 2013b).
“Our prior work (Sturgeon, Yeung, & Zautra, 2014; Sturgeon & Zautra, 2010, 2013a) also suggests that paying more attention to these areas, such as finding ways to change the interpretation or relationship of a person with his or her pain, increasing positive social interactions and positive mood, and addressing issues with fatigue may help us to increase resilience and ultimately improve quality of life in those people who are dealing with chronic pain,” he wrote. (The research references in this article are seen at the end of the story).
Dr. Sturgeon was grateful for the National Pain Report audience for the quick and in depth response.
“I would first like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who participated,” he said. “We received responses from a variety of people who have had very different experiences with their chronic pain- this is what we hoped to achieve, as we wanted to ensure that our questionnaire is applicable to a wide range of experiences.”
Editor’s Note: Two columns written by Dr. Sturgeon on the Stanford research and its request to National Pain Report readers have been published. One was published on January 13th and the more recent one on April 1st.
As the research findings are reviewed and published, we will do additional stories on this work. We are glad to have helped Stanford and look forward to more work together in the future.
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Here are the research references Dr. Sturgeon cited in his response to National Pain Report.
Sturgeon, J. A., Darnall, B. D., Kao, M.-C. J., & Mackey, S. C. (2014). Physical and Psychological Correlates of Fatigue and Physical Function: A Stanford-NIH Open Source Pain Registry Study. The Journal of Pain.
Sturgeon, J. A., Yeung, E. W., & Zautra, A. J. (2014). Respiratory sinus arrhythmia: a marker of resilience to pain induction. [Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t]. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21(6), 961-965. doi: 10.1007/s12529-014-9386-6
Sturgeon, J. A., & Zautra, A. J. (2010). Resilience: a new paradigm for adaptation to chronic pain. [Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural]. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 14(2), 105-112. doi: 10.1007/s11916-010-0095-9
Sturgeon, J. A., & Zautra, A. J. (2013a). Psychological resilience, pain catastrophizing, and positive emotions: perspectives on comprehensive modeling of individual pain adaptation. [Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural Review]. Current Pain and Headache Reports, 17(3), 317. doi: 10.1007/s11916-012-0317-4
Sturgeon, J. A., & Zautra, A. J. (2013b). State and trait pain catastrophizing and emotional health in rheumatoid arthritis. [Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural]. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 45(1), 69-77. doi: 10.1007/s12160-012-9408-z
Sturgeon, J. A., Zautra, A. J., & Arewasikporn, A. (2014). A multilevel structural equation modeling analysis of vulnerabilities and resilience resources influencing affective adaptation to chronic pain. [Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural]. Pain, 155(2), 292-298. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.10.007