Functional Medicine Effective in Veterans With Chronic Pain

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Participation in a pilot functional medicine clinic decreased perceived stress and joint and muscle symptoms in veterans with chronic pain.
The following article features coverage from PAINWeek 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Click here to read more of Clinical Pain Advisor‘s conference coverage.

LAS VEGAS — Participation in a pilot functional medicine clinic decreased perceived stress and joint and muscle symptoms in veterans with chronic pain, according to research presented at PAINWeek 2017, held September 5-9, in Las Vegas, Nevada.1

Researchers recruited 51 veterans with mixed idiopathic chronic pain to participate in a pilot functional medicine clinic. The clinic consisted of four 60- to 75-minute group sessions followed by individual sessions as needed. An interdisciplinary team consisting of an osteopath physician; a health psychologist; and a dietician who coached patients on diet, exercise, stress management, and sleep hygiene. At the first and last sessions, patients were assessed with the Medical Symptoms Questionnaire, the Perceived Stress Scale, and the Insomnia Severity Index.

A total of 53% of the participants (n=27) participated in the program, and the remaining non-completers were monitored with electronic medical records during the study period. At baseline, patients who completed the study had an average pain intensity of 4 to 5 on the Numeric Rating Scale and had subthreshold insomnia.

Patients who completed the functional clinic had significant decreases in measures of symptoms/toxicity (P =.02) and perceived stress (P =.006). After Bonferroni correction, only perceived stress remained significantly different.

When the Medical Symptoms Questionnaire responses were broken down by subsystems (head, digestive tract, joint/muscles, weight, energy/activity, mind, and emotions), a significant difference from baseline was noted for the head (P =.02), joint/muscle pains (P =.006), weight (P =.04), energy/activity (P =.02), and the mind (P =.01). After Bonferroni correction, only the joint/muscle subdomain, which evaluates aches, pain and arthritis, showed a significant change.

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Cohen’s d calculations indicate that the effect of the functional medicine clinic was moderate for perceived stress (effect size 0.514) and moderate to large for joint/muscle symptoms (effect size 0.724).

David Cosio, PhD, psychologist in the anesthesiology/pain clinic at Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, and lead study investigator, concluded that a 4-session functional medicine clinic led to “decreases in perceived stress and joint/muscle symptoms.” He also noted that the functional medicine framework “reinforc[es] the self-management approach to chronic pain management,” which has been shown to be useful in patients with pain.

Read more of Clinical Pain Advisor‘s coverage of PAINWeek 2017 by visiting the conference page.

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  1. Cosio D, Schaefer D, Pollack S. The effects of a pilot functional medicine clinic on chronic pain among veterans. Presented at: PAINWeek 2017; September 5-9; Las Vegas, Nevada. Poster 16.