Researchers Assess Culturally Enhanced Pain Coping Skills Training Program for OA in Black Patients

Osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the top causes of pain and disability in the United States and has a disproportionate effect on black patients compared to white ones. Previous research has found that black OA patients report higher pain catastrophizing levels, which may be in part due to differences in pain coping patterns by race. To address this disparity, researchers analyzed the effectiveness of a pain Coping Skills Training (CST) program among black OA patients, which was assessed in the Pain Coping Skills Training for African Americans with Osteoarthritis (STAART) study. A study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders evaluated the use of the pain CST program in patients who enrolled in the STAART trial.

The STAART trial randomized OA patients recruited from the University of North Carolina and Durham Veterans Affairs Healthcare Systems to receive either 11 telephone-based CST program sessions or usual care (control). In the current study, 93 STAART participants filled out a survey about the trial. The mean age among the participants in the present study was 59.4 years, and 50.5% of participants were female.

On a 10-point scale, the mean (SD) rating of the pain CST program’s overall helpfulness for managing arthritis symptoms was 8.0 (2.2). Most participants (83.1%) said that the program made a positive difference in their arthritis experience. When ranking how the program helped with specific skills on a 10-point scale, participants generally felt that the program was helpful:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation (mean [SD], 8.1 [2.5])
  • Mini relaxation practices (8.7 [1.9])
  • Communicating with others about pain and coping (7.7 [2.8])
  • Managing unhelpful mood (7.8 [2.6])
  • Activity pacing (8.5 [2.3])
  • Pleasant activities (8.4 [2.1])
  • Pleasant imagery and other distraction techniques (8.2 [2.5])
  • Problem solving (8.3 [2.4])

“Pain CST is not widely available or familiar as a component of OA management, but these findings point toward the need to increase its uptake, particularly among those who may benefit most through remotely delivered interventions. We recommend efforts to increase access to pain CST programs, as well as identification of strategies to teach these skills to patients within team-based primary care environments,” the researchers concluded.