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Pain management for chronic musculoskeletal conditions: the development of an evidence-based and theory-informed pain self-management course
  1. Dawn Carnes1,
  2. Kate Homer1,
  3. Martin Underwood2,
  4. Tamar Pincus3,
  5. Anisur Rahman4,
  6. Stephanie J C Taylor1
  1. 1Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Barts and The School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
  2. 2Clinical Trial Units, Warwick Medical School, Coventry, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, London, UK
  4. 4Department of Rheumatology, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Dawn Carnes; d.carnes{at}


Objective To devise and test a self-management course for chronic pain patients based on evidence and underpinned by theory using the Medical Research Council (MRC) framework for developing complex interventions.

Design We used a mixed method approach. We conducted a systematic review of the effectiveness of components and characteristics of pain management courses. We then interviewed chronic pain patients who had attended pain and self-management courses. Behavioural change theories were mapped onto our findings and used to design the intervention. We then conducted a feasibility study to test the intervention.

Setting Primary care in the inner city of London, UK.

Participants Adults (18 years or older) with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Outcomes Related disability, quality of life, coping, depression, anxiety, social integration and healthcare resource use.

Results The systematic reviews indicated that group-based courses with joint lay and healthcare professional leadership and that included a psychological component of short duration (<8 weeks) showed considerable promise. The qualitative research indicated that participants liked relaxation, valued social interaction and course location, and that timing and good tutoring were important determinants of attendance. We used behavioural change theories (social learning theory and cognitive behaviour approaches (CBA)) to inform course content. The course addressed: understanding and accepting pain, mood and pain, unhelpful thoughts and behaviour, problem solving, goal setting, action planning, movement, relaxation and social integration/reactivation. Attendance was 85%; we modified the recruitment of patients, the course and the training of facilitators as a result of testing.

Conclusions The MRC guidelines were helpful in developing this intervention. It was possible to train both lay and non-psychologists to facilitate the courses and deliver CBA. The course was feasible and well received.


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