Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent medical conditions in the Veteran population. Pain often presents with comorbid conditions, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Comorbid chronic pain and PTSD significantly impact the quality of life of Veterans and their families. Multi-faceted therapies leveraging complementary and integrative health (CIH) are mandated within VA to complement clinical practice guidelines improve Veterans' quality of life and ability to function. This research will evaluate a CIH intervention to manage pain and PTSD related outcomes within a bio-psychosocial framework. The proposed intervention, Mission Reconnect (MR), a user-driven, dyadic, self-care management program delivered online and by mobile app that has previously shown to be effective in a non-clinically defined community-based Veteran/military population. This research is needed to test MR's effects in a clinically defined population as a complement to clinical services to assess for potential subsequent implementation within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This proposal resubmission is responsive to Veterans' reported desire for CIH and several VA initiatives, including RR&D's current special areas of interest for non-pharmacological activity- based interventions for chronic pain impacting pain reduction, function and quality of life. The VA Secretary of Health Strategic Priorities and the emerging VA Whole Health Program identify access to CIH for pain and self-care management as a priority to achieve optimal Veteran health. To be responsive to these priorities the 2016 VA State-of-the-Art Conference (SOTA) and Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) mandated VA's commitment to conduct rigorous research to integrate non-pharmacological and CIH approaches into care, with emphasis on pain management. This proposal is also responsive to the VA's Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI) and Pain Care Mission which prioritize the need for nonpharmacological treatment options for pain. The short-term goal of this study is to determine the effects of MR on (1) chronic pain, PTSD and related outcomes and (2) relationship outcomes for Veterans and their partners. The long-term goal is to determine the effectiveness and sustainability of using CIH self-care management programs like MR to improve outcomes for Veterans with chronic pain and PTSD, and their partners. We propose a four-year mixed-methods randomized controlled trial of MR with two arms (treatment & wait-list control) in a clinical sample of Veterans with comorbid pain and PTSD, and their partners (e.g., spouse).
The specific aims are to:
(Aim 1) Determine MR effectiveness for physical (pain, sleep), PTSD (intrusion, arousal, avoidance, numbing), and psychological (depression, stress, anxiety) symptoms, and global health (quality of life);
(Aim 2) Determine MR effectiveness for social (relationship satisfaction, compassion for self/others) outcomes among Veterans and their partners;
and (Aim 3) Describe Veteran and partner perceived value of MR in a sub-sample of participants. The sample will consist of Veteran and partner dyads (N = 228) at the Ann Arbor, Puget Sound, and Tampa VA facilities.
Aim 1 & 2 data collection will include self-report assessment of 4-data points over a 4-month period to evaluate physical, psychological, and social outcomes. Eight weekly reports will also be collected for the first two months of MR use to assess MR utilization, and pain and stress levels.
Aim 3 data collection will include telephone interviews from a randomly selected sub-sample of MR treatment group dyads (n = 42) to examine MR user experiences and their suggestions making MR useful for Veterans and their partners.

Public Health Relevance

This project is responsive to RR&D's current special areas of interest for non-pharmacological activity-based interventions for chronic pain impacting pain reduction, function and quality of life. This project aligns with the VA mandate for complementary and integrative health (CIH) care for Veterans and their families. CIH complements traditional care for Veterans managing chronic conditions, such as chronic pain and PTSD. Mission Reconnect (MR) is a user-driven, dyadic, CIH self-care management program delivered remotely that teaches techniques the Veteran/partner dyad can use to reduce pain, anxiety and stress, promote well-being and improve relationship quality. The research goal is to evaluate MR as an approach to manage chronic pain and PTSD symptoms, for potential subsequent implementation. This study will possibly provide a model for establishing remote access and sustainable implementation of CIH within VA.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Non-HHS Research Projects (I01)
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Behavioral Health & Social Reintegration (RRD4)
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James A. Haley VA Medical Center
United States
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