Frequently Asked Questions
What is SamaCare’s Chronic Pain Program?
The SamaCare Chronic Pain Program uses trained health coaches to provide an online and telephone-based pain management program inspired by a technique called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The program uses instructional videos, homework, and trained coaches to teach patients self-management skills for managing chronic pain. A substantial body of evidence demonstrates that this CBT-based approach can help many patients feel less pain and achieve an improved quality of life.
What is the evidence that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works to alleviate chronic pain?
A number of studies have demonstrated that patients who go through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for chronic pain are likely to experience less pain and a higher quality of life. In 1999, a review of 25 different trials found CBT-based chronic pain programs to be effective. More recently in 2006, a review of 22 studies found additional support for the effectiveness of CBT-based programs. Another 2006 study, comparing patients receiving CBT to those that did not, found that the CBT group were three times more likely to report after the program that pain did not interfere with their lives, and twice as likely to report significant improvements in their pain.
Who is the program for?
The program is for individuals trying to manage any of the following types of chronic pain: low back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia, radicular pain, tension-type headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, or other types of pain that lasts for longer than three months and occurs on a regular basis.
One part of the program involves walking or doing a similar level of exercise, so patients should only participate in the program if their primary care provider believes they are healthy enough to walk or engage in an equivalent exercise.
Since you don’t prescribe medicine or offer medical treatment, are you saying the pain is only “in my head”?
No – we believe the pain is very real. However, research demonstrates a strong connection between brain and body, especially when it comes to pain. Your brain can affect how you experience pain, and how much pain you feel. The purpose of this program is for you to learn techniques and strategies for using that strong brain-body connection in your favor to better manage your own pain.
How long does the program last, and how much of my time will it take?
The program consists of nine different modules and lasts approximately 9-12 weeks, depending on your commitment to participating and learning from each lesson. Each module teaches skills and techniques to better manage chronic pain, and consists of 1-2 videos of about three minutes in length, and a practice assignment to reinforce the techniques taught in that module. Over the course of each module, you can practice as much or as little as you like; we feel like you will gain the most out of the program if you practice the skills you learn for about 5-10 minutes a day.
Who are the coaches?
The coaches have training through the Iowa Chronic Care Consortium (ICCC) Clinical Health Coaching program. The coaches are not licensed therapists, doctors, or social workers. The coaches provide motivation/support and have been trained in cognitive behavioral techniques, so they can provide feedback and answer questions that you might have.
How will this affect other prescription drugs or medical treatments that I’m already using for pain?
Participating in the program does not mean you should stop any medications or medical treatments recommended by your doctor. Some patients have found that they can decrease their medications or medical treatments after successfully finishing a CBT program, but that is something that can only be decided in consultation with your doctor.
What are the risks associated with this program?
The risks of CBT are minimal, as it does not involve adding or changing any medical prescriptions or drugs that you already take. Some patients have reported temporary soreness associated with increasing their exercise.
Relevant Research Studies
Ehde, D. M., Dillworth, T. M., & Turner, J. A. (2014). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for individuals with chronic pain: Efficacy, innovations, and directions for research. American Psychologist,69(2), 153-166. doi:10.1037/a0035747
Hoffman, B.M., Papas, R.K., Chatkoff, D.K., & Kerns, R.D. (2007). Meta-analysis of psychological interventions for chronic low-back pain. Health Psychology, 26(1), 1-9. doi: 10.1037/0278-618.104.22.168
Murphy, J.L., McKellar, J.D., Raffa, S.D., Clark, M.E., Kerns, R.D., & Karlin, B.E. Cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain among veterans: Therapist manual. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Morley, S., Eccleston, C., & Williams, A. (1999). Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of cognitive behaviour therapy and behaviour therapy for chronic pain in adults, excluding headache. Pain, 80(1-2), 1-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0304-3959(98)00255-3
Turner, J.A., Mancl, L., & Aaron, L.A. (2006). Short- and long-term efficacy of brief cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients with chronic temporomandibular disorder pain: A randomized, controlled trial. Pain, 121(3), 181-194.