Health Coaching for Chronic Multisymptom Illness

  • End date
    Apr 30, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    VA Office of Research and Development
Updated on 17 December 2021


The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) labels chronic pain as one of the most extensive health care issues facing our society with "severe impacts on all aspects of the lives of its sufferers."1 Pain predominant chronic multisymptom illness (Pain-CMI, e.g., fibromyalgia) is a particularly debilitating and presumptive service connected condition for Veterans who deployed to the Gulf region. Health coaching is an appealing potential approach to improve the disability of Pain-CMI because it is personalized to the Veteran's unique goals and beliefs about Pain-CMI and it will be widely available as the VA is rolling out health coaching. The goal of this proposal is to understand if health coaching is also efficacious for a complex pain condition, Pain-CMI.



Chronic pain is one of the most common healthcare issues that Veterans face; it can be very debilitating as well as difficult to treat. Pain Predominant Chronic Multi-symptom Illness (CMI) (e.g., fibromyalgia) is a particularly debilitating and treatment-resistant chronic pain condition and a presumptive service-connected condition for Veterans who deployed to the Gulf region from 1990-2021 (VA Benefits Administration, 2018). There is an urgent need for evidence-based non-pharmaceutical treatments for chronic pain. This study will explore the efficacy of remote-delivered health coaching intervention aimed at modifying lifestyle factors of diet, exercise, social connections, stress, and sleep. The control condition will be supportive psychotherapy.

Study Aims:

Primary Aim 1: Determine if remote-delivered health coaching reduces (H1a) disability and (H2a) pain impairment as compared to remote-delivered supportive psychotherapy for Veterans with Pain-CMI. The investigators will also assess the improvement in (H1b) disability and (H2b) pain impairment at the 24-month follow-up.

Primary Aim 2: Determine if health coaching results in more frequent clinically significant improvement in (H3) disability (20%) and (H4) pain impairment (1 point) as compared to supportive psychotherapy.

Secondary Aim 3: Determine if health coaching reduces (H5) physical symptoms, (H6) catastrophizing, (H7) limiting activity and increases (H8) pain control as compared to supportive psychotherapy.

Exploratory Aim 4: Determine if the reduction in (H9) catastrophizing, (H10) limiting activity and increases in (H11) pain control mediate the relationship between health coaching and reductions in disability and pain impairment.

Study Design:

The current proposal is a randomized clinical trial to determine the efficacy of remote-delivered health coaching in reducing disability and pain impairment for Veterans with Pain-CMI as compared to supportive psychotherapy (n=250). Additionally, the investigators will explore mechanisms of change. Participants will complete four assessments at four different timepoints: baseline, 6-week mid treatment (~6 weeks after baseline), post-treatment (~12 weeks after baseline), and 24-week follow-up (~24 weeks after baseline).

Condition Pain Predominant Chronic Multisymptom Illness
Treatment Health Coaching, Supportive Psychotherapy
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04157101
SponsorVA Office of Research and Development
Last Modified on17 December 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Study Population. Participants will consist of 250 Veterans with Pain-CMI
CMI meets Kansas City (Steele) definition of CMI
reports wide-spread pain rated at least 4 on a 0 to 10 point pain bothersome scale
rates their activity limitations at least 3 on a 0 to 10 point scale

Exclusion Criteria

life-threatening condition
severe cognitive impairment
psychotic disorder, pregnant
plans to become pregnant in the next year
suicidal intent
Clear my responses

How to participate?

Step 1 Connect with a study center
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Additional screening procedures may be conducted by the study team before you can be confirmed eligible to participate.

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If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

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Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

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