Positive activities, such as increasing supportive emotions, can reduce body discomfort in adults with mild to moderate chronic pain, according to new research.
Participants were recruited for the project using a website, which also provided instructions for the positive activities. Examples of the recommended positive activities included identifying three good things that went well each day and dwelling on them, focusing intensely on positive experiences two to three times a day and practicing how to respond positively to good news shared by others.
The findings were published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Pain, the peer-reviewed publication of the American Pain Society.
In a multicenter study led by the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, 417 participants with at least mild to moderate pain were assigned randomly to complete zero, two, four or six positive activities during a six-week period. Follow-up assessments were collected at the end of six weeks and at one, three and six months after intervention.
The researchers hypothesized that participants randomly assigned to complete two, four or six positive activities would show greater reductions in bodily pain after the intervention compared to those assigned to perform no activities.
Pain was measured using the bodily pain subscale of the Short Form-36, in which scores range from zero to 100, with higher scores indicating less pain. Researchers found the level of pain decreased after six weeks in those who completed two (55.7 to 67.4), four (54.2 to 71.0) or six (50.9 to 67.9) positive activities.
Results showed subjects assigned to complete at least four positive activities reported less bodily pain after the intervention than those in the zero-activities control group. The reduction in bodily pain lasted six months after completion of the intervention.
The authors concluded that teaching very simple, evidence-based, positive activities administered online can lead to lasting reductions in bodily pain. Further, the study demonstrates positive activities administered using the internet offer practical pain management strategies at very low cost with high sustainability.
Study abstract: www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900%2814%2900569-0/abstract