Social and Behavioral Research Essential to the Draft Pain Research Priorities

Social and Behavioral Research Essential to the Draft Pain Research Priorities

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health recently released the draft Federal Pain Research Priorities, followed by a period of public comment and a symposium to discuss these draft research priorities.

Given the modest effects of our current pain management strategies and the contributions of our limited ability to manage pain on the opioid abuse epidemic, every social and behavioral scientist should read this report and consider how to advance our ability to better manage pain.  Among the cross cutting priorities, social and behavioral research efforts include:

  • Translating basic research findings into novel approaches to improve non-pharmacologic pain management and determining optimal dosing and adherence strategies for these non-pharmacologic treatments.
  • Standardizing measures of pain and related outcomes, determining a clinically meaningful effect, and developing improved screeners for predicting persistent or recurrent pain.
  • Developing a research network that, among many goals, can be used to identify relevant phenotypic subtypes with varying treatment courses
  • Developing and evaluating effective care delivery models that extend beyond the hospital system to include home and family settings.
  • Identifying not only genetic but also environmental factors predictive of treatment response and adverse effects.

In addition to these cross-cutting priorities, the report specifies research priorities for prevention, acute pain, transition to chronic pain, chronic pain, and disparities.   Social and behavioral influences and intervention strategies play a predominant role in prevention and disparities priorities, but there are also important roles in the other areas.  For instance, the dosing, duration, and mechanism of action of biobehavioral treatments for acute pain management requires more research.   The transition from acute to chronic pain needs more research on how early life experiences contribute to this transition and the role of susceptibility and resilience in this transition.  Optimizing and evaluating approaches for the self-management of chronic pain are needed.

These pain research priorities are a clear call to action for the social and behavioral sciences.  OBSSR will continue to work with the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and the NIH to encourage innovative research in the social and behavioral sciences that will address these research priorities.

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