Objective: To identify barriers and facilitators to self-management of chronic musculoskeletal pain among patients with comorbid pain and depression.
Design: A qualitative study using focus group methodology.
Setting: Veteran Affairs (VA) and University primary care clinics.
Patients: Recruited after participation in a clinical trial.
Intervention: The Stepped Care for Affective Disorders and Musculoskeletal Pain (SCAMP) trial tested an intervention of optimized antidepressant therapy combined with a pain self-management program versus usual care for primary care patients with comorbid chronic pain and depression.
Outcome measures: Thematic content analysis from focus group data was used to identify patient-perceived barriers and facilitators to self-management of chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Results: Patients (N = 18) were 27 to 84 years old (M = 54.8), 61% women, 72% white, and 22% black. Barriers to pain self-management included: 1) lack of support from friends and family; 2) limited resources (e.g., transportation, financial); 3) depression; 4) ineffectiveness of pain-relief strategies; 5) time constraints and other life priorities; 6) avoiding activity because of fear of pain exacerbation; 7) lack of tailoring strategies to meet personal needs; 8) not being able to maintain the use of strategies after study completion; 9) physical limitations; and 10) difficult patient-physician interactions. Facilitators to improve pain self-management included 1) encouragement from nurse care managers; 2) improving depression with treatment; 3) supportive family and friends; and 4) providing a menu of different self-management strategies to use.
Conclusions: Future research is needed to confirm these findings and to design interventions that capitalize on the facilitators identified while at the same time addressing the barriers to pain self-management.