Mind-Body Activity Program for Chronic Pain: Exploring Mechanisms of Improvement in Patient-Reported, Performance-Based and Ambulatory Physical Function

Author: Jonathan Greenberg1,2, Ryan A Mace1,2, Sarah M Bannon1,2, Ronald J Kulich2,3, Ana-Maria Vranceanu2
1 Integrated Brain Health Clinical and Research Program, Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
2 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
3 Center for Pain Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Pain Res
Date published: 2021 Feb 5
Other: Volume ID: 14 , Pages: 359-368 , Special Notes: doi: 10.2147/JPR.S298212. , Word Count: 277

Improving physical function among patients with chronic pain is critical for reducing disability and healthcare costs. However, mechanisms underlying improvement in patient-reported, performance-based, and ambulatory physical function in chronic pain remain poorly understood.

To explore psychosocial mediators of improvement in patient-reported, performance-based, and objective/accelerometer-measured physical function among participants in a mind-body activity program.

Individuals with chronic pain were randomized to one of two identical 10-week mind-body activity interventions aimed at improving physical function with (GetActive-Fitbit; N=41) or without (GetActive; N=41) a Fitbit device. They completed self-reported (WHODAS 2.0), performance-based (6-minute walk test), and objective (accelerometer-measured step-count) measures of physical function, as well as measures of kinesiophobia (Tampa Kinesiophobia Scale), mindfulness (CAMS-R), and pain resilience (Pain Resilience Scale) before and after the intervention. We conducted secondary data analyses to test mediation via mixed-effects modeline.

Improvements in patient-reported physical function were fully and uniquely mediated by kinesiophobia (Completely Standardized Indirect Effect (CSIE)=.18; CI=0.08, 0.30; medium-large effect size), mindfulness (CSIE=-.14; CI=-25, -.05; medium effect size) and pain resilience (CSIE=-.07; CI=-.16, -.005; small-medium effect size). Improvements in performance-based physical function were mediated only by kinesiophobia (CSIE=-.11; CI=-23, -.008; medium effect size). No measures mediated improvements in objective (accelerometer measured) physical function.

Interventions aiming to improve patient-reported physical function in patients with chronic pain may benefit from skills that target kinesiophobia, mindfulness, and pain resilience, while those focused on improving performance-based physical function should target primarily kinesiophobia. More research is needed to understand mechanisms of improvement in objective, accelerometer-measured physical function.

Trial registration:
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03412916.

Keywords: chronic pain; disability; mediation; mind-body; physical function; psychosocial variables.

PMID: 33574699 PMCID: PMC7872894 DOI: 10.2147/JPR.S298212