A brief peer support intervention for veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain: a pilot study of feasibility and effectiveness

Pain Med. 2015 Jan;16(1):81-7. doi: 10.1111/pme.12571. Epub 2014 Oct 14.


Objective: The aim of this study was to pilot test a peer support intervention, involving peer delivery of pain self-management strategies, for veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Design: Pretest/posttest with 4-month intervention period.

Methods: Ten peer coaches were each assigned 2 patients (N = 20 patients). All had chronic musculoskeletal pain. Guided by a study manual, peer coach-patient pairs were instructed to talk biweekly for 4 months. Pain was the primary outcome and was assessed with the PEG, a three-item version of the Brief Pain Inventory, and the PROMIS Pain Interference Questionnaire. Several secondary outcomes were also assessed. To assess change in outcomes, a linear mixed model with a random effect for peer coaches was applied.

Results: Nine peer coaches and 17 patients completed the study. All were male veterans. Patients' pain improved at 4 months compared with baseline but did not reach statistical significance (PEG: P = 0.33, ICC [intra-class correlation] = 0.28, Cohen's d = -0.25; PROMIS: P = 0.17, d = -0.35). Of secondary outcomes, self-efficacy (P = 0.16, ICC = 0.56, d = 0.60) and pain centrality (P = 0.06, ICC = 0.32, d = -0.62) showed greatest improvement, with moderate effect sizes.

Conclusions: This study suggests that peers can effectively deliver pain self-management strategies to other veterans with pain. Although this was a pilot study with a relatively short intervention period, patients improved on several outcomes.

Keywords: Chronic Pain; Pain Management; Social Support.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chronic Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Peer Group*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Self Care / methods
  • Veterans