Women with early-stage chronic pain who were referred to a chronic pain group-medical visit program based on an empowerment model had a high degree of comorbidities (the existence of two diseases or condition) and poor health-related quality of life. But after six months of participating in the program, there appeared to be real improvements in quality of life.
These are the results of a study entitled “Group Medical Visit Using an Empowerment-based model as Treatment for Women with Chronic Pain in an Underserved Community,” published in the journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine.
The group medical visit model has emerged as a promising method to effectively manage chronic illnesses like chronic pain because it can be more patient-centered. The empowerment model is a novel approach used to provide support, education, and healthy activities guided by participants. The empowerment-based model has been under development since 1997 at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC) and was first created as a treatment for loneliness, but was found to have other health and quality of life benefits.
The typical format of an empowerment group visit combines a group check-in, an educational session (which might include exercise, nutrition counseling and group discussion), an activity (which is directed by the group and may involve art work, charity, yoga, or meditation), and an opportunity for an individual medical visit (IMV) with the physician at the request of the patient.
To test whether the empowerment group visit model would improve health-related quality of life as measured by the SF-36 questionnaire (a 36-item, patient-reported survey of patient health) in patients with chronic pain, researchers recruited 60 female patients from a poor community who were asked to complete the questionnaire at baseline and after six months of participation.
Demographic and clinical information was collected, and chronic pain diagnoses of the study participants included back pain, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and inflammatory arthritis, and other conditions.
Of the 60 patients who were recruited, 42 with chronic pain completed the six-month program. The mean score in the Charleson Comorbidity Index score was 3.1, indicating a significantly high number of women were living with two diseases or conditions. Moreover, after intervention there were significant improvements in the SF-36 dimensions Role-Physical, Bodily Pain, General Health, Social Function, and Mental Health. The biggest improvements were observed in the dimensions Role-Physical and Role-Emotional.
“We conducted a group program for women with chronic pain in a poor community. Participants were largely Latino, had common chronic pain diagnosis, and had a low level of health-related quality of life. Subjects created and participated in groups that largely featured facilitated discussion, education surrounding chronic pain, and CIM activities. After six months of participation, we found statistically significant improvement in many of the SF-36 factors,” researchers wrote. “An empowerment model of chronic pain groups may improve health-related quality of life in the setting of an underserved community in a community health center.”