Last updated on September 2018

Establishing Efficacy of a Functional-Restoration Based CAM Pain Management Program in Post-9/11 Veterans

Brief description of study

This is a research study of an interdisciplinary pain management program for U.S. military veterans who served during the post-9/11 combat eras (e.g., Operations Iraqi Freedom [OIF], Enduring Freedom [OEF], New Dawn [OND]) presenting with chronic musculoskeletal pain related to military service with comorbid depression and/or posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD] symptoms and/or mild traumatic brain injury. This study will test the efficacy of an interdisciplinary pain program compared to treatment as usual in the Veterans Health Administration on pain-related disability, opioid medication use, and pain coping.

Detailed Study Description

Study Title

Establishing Efficacy of a Functional Restoration-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Pain Management Program in a Combat Injured Veterans Population


AIM 1: Assess the efficacy of the Functional Orthopedic Rehab Treatment-Amended (FORT-A) Program for improved pain management outcomes in (N=130) polymorbid OEF/OIF/OND Veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) using a 1:1 randomized clinical trial comparing FORT-A to standard Veterans Affairs (VA) care. We will determine the improvement in pain management outcomes attributable to a fully integrated and manualized interdisciplinary pain program (FORT-A) compared to standard VA care.

AIM 2: Assess the efficacy of FORT-A for decreasing the rate of opioid recidivism (using any opioid for 3 or more days in any 30-day period) compared to standard VA care in a sample of OEF/OIF/OND polymorbid Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain (CMP) Veterans discharged off of opioid medication in VA care since the start of the Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI). Unlike the original FORT trial, this research will formally and prospectively track opioid medication use among polymorbid Veterans to sensitively detect changes in chronic opioid therapy attributable to FORT-A versus VA treatment as usual. FORT-A is expected to produce a significantly lower rate of opioid recidivism by imparting numerous strategies to supplant opioid medication as a pain management strategy.

EXPLORATORY AIM 3: The investigators will assess other psychosocial pain coping constructs twice a week and analyze latent changes in FORT-A and VA-treated Veterans to ascertain their role as pain management mediators

Design and Outcomes

This study is a 1:1 block randomized clinical trial comparing the FORT-A program to treatment as usual for polytrauma OEF/OIF/OND Veterans with prior persistent opioid use and chronic musculoskeletal pain who are eligible for treatment through the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS). All participants will be offered Physical Therapy services before enrollment and will be enrolled in the study after completing or denying Physical Therapy (up to 12 sessions as recommended by a Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center [PRC] Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician or other VA medical provider). If they have already completed Physical Therapy (PT) before study enrollment, they will not need to do so again. Also, if the Veteran qualifies but refuses VA Physical Therapy, he or she will still be eligible to enroll in this study and will not be asked to complete PT first. Veterans randomized to VA care (treatment as usual) will then meet with PRC and other VA medical providers per usual standards of care (described below). Those randomized to FORT-A will complete the standardized FORT-A Program (described in detail below). All participants will complete a standardized battery of assessments at pre-treatment (Week 0), post-treatment (Week 4/5), 6-month follow-up (Week 30/31) and 12-month follow-up (Week 56/57).

FORT-A: An amended version of the military Functional Orthopedic Rehabilitation Treatment (FORT) program. For FORT-A, Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy (CBT) components of FORT were diminished and replaced with mindfulness and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) components. Individual FORT treatment sessions have been altered in FORT-A to focus on PTSD symptom management using an abbreviated, manualized Prolonged Exposure treatment. FORT-A

  • 12 sessions (90-minutes each) of manualized group pain management
  • 12 sessions (90-minutes each) of group-based functional restoration Physical Therapy
  • 6 sessions (75 minutes each) of individual psychotherapy for pain and PTSD
  • 6 sessions (30 minutes each) of biofeedback for pain management
  • Weekly interdisciplinary case staffings

VA and PRC Care: The STVHCS PRC is the only self-contained Polytrauma Rehab Center in the VA's nationwide Polytrauma System of Care. The PRC is an interdisciplinary treatment center including: interdisciplinary assessment and treatment, case management, mental health support, physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), physical therapy, speech therapy, prosthetists/orthotists, and other integrated specialty services. Though individual treatment plans may vary, most PRC Veterans will complete a course of Physical Therapy and be followed by a PM&R physician for pain and other symptom management. Pain management with PM&R may include medications, injections, and other palliative medical interventions. The PM&R physicians may also make recommendations about physical function, health behaviors, and mobility.

Outcomes will be measured at pre-treatment, post-treatment, 6-month follow-up and one-year follow-up.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT02657317

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