Jan 19 2016 Posted: 09:27 GMT

Children who experience chronic pain are invited to take part in first online pain management programme of its kind in Ireland to be trialled at NUI Galway

Researchers from the School of Psychology and Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway are currently recruiting children age 6-10 years with chronic pain and their parent(s) or care-giver(s) to take part in an online pain management programme for children.

An online pain management programme called Feeling Better has been developed at NUI Galway to help children and parents to manage chronic pain for a better quality of life. This web-based programme is based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy, a psychological therapy which has shown to be effective in the management of chronic pain, in traditional face-to-face therapy and group treatment.

The Feeling Better study is unique in that a trial of this nature has not been investigated to date in Ireland. The programme is currently the only, widely available, source of interactive, online therapeutic support for school age children with chronic pain in Ireland. The researchers would like to enlist families coping with chronic pain to aid in the testing of this online pain management programme.

Chronic pain is pain which persists for a period of three months or more. It affects up to 35% of the Irish population and is increasingly prevalent in young people. Recent studies suggest up to 10% of 5-12 year old Irish children report chronic or persistent pain including abdominal pain, back pain, musculoskeletal pain, headache and widespread pain. Chronic pain is often associated with psychological effects, which may include changes in mood and difficulty with focusing attention and performance at school. This can have a significant impact on day-to-day quality of life.

The Feeling Better study is open to children with any type of chronic or persistent pain (pain which has lasted for three months or more). The study will take place over the coming months and children and their parent(s) from across Ireland are invited to take part. Pain support groups, parent-led networks, GPs and physiotherapists around the country are encouraged to get in touch and to refer suitable people with pain to the study. Benefits to participants include access to a free online pain management programme and training in cognitive and behavioural techniques tailored for chronic pain management and school age children.

The online programme was developed by clinical psychologists and researchers at NUI Galway with input from families currently coping with chronic pain. School age children with chronic pain and their care-givers were involved in the design and development process. Evidence-based psychological strategies were selected to address areas of pain management children and parents identified as most challenging and important. This influence ensures Feeling Better is a fun and engaging form of online therapeutic support designed by children with pain for children with pain.

The programme involves 9-weekly online sessions. Each session is designed to take approximately 30-minutes to complete and all participants are guided through the programme by a ‘Coach’ who is available to provide feedback and advice on a regular basis. Each week, this fun, pirate-themed, interactive programme will introduce children to new skills in the form of ‘Challenges’ and weekly ‘Missions’ (treatment sessions) which they must complete in order to progress in their training.

Participating children will begin the programme as a ‘Powder Monkey’ and must earn a promotion with each Mission until they succeed to ‘Captain’ and claim their treasure. Parents are encouraged to take the role of ‘Coach’ and are separately guided through a complementary section of the programme where they are provided with information, tips for practice and tools to help with day-to-day pain management.

Weekly sessions are tailored to participants goals, support needs and coping preferences. Children and parents will learn more about psychological strategies which focus on techniques such as relaxation training, activity pacing, attention management, communication skills and the influence of thoughts and emotions on the experience of pain.

This programme is part of a research project being carried out at NUI Galway by PhD candidate and Hardiman scholar, Angeline Traynor and led by Professor Brian McGuire from NUI Galway’s School of Psychology and the Centre for Pain Research. Angeline Traynor has been researching chronic pain management and working with families to develop an effective and accessible pain management programme.

Ms Traynor says: “Chronic pain is thought to be predictive of long term complaints and disability. Given the impact of chronic pain it is essential to provide a means of support for young children with respect to pain management. Learning coping strategies at an early age may have long term benefits for the child and the family as a whole. Our hope is that this online programme will overcome access and resource issues which may be preventing families from receiving psychological treatment to support pain management.”

Participation is voluntary. Children and parents who take part will be helping researchers decide if web-based technology is an acceptable means of treatment delivery. The researchers are looking for volunteers to help them trial the programme and determine what works and what doesn’t work.

To participate in the study or for further information, please contact Angeline Traynor at team@feelingbetter.ie and 086 0378562 or visit www.feelingbetter.ie

The study is supported by Galway University Foundation and the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway.

ENDS

Marketing and Communications Office

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