Pain management in IBD


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Developing a new intervention for IBD abdominal pain, and comparing it with an existing NHS pain management programme.


If we show that interventions make a difference to IBD pain we will have a strong argument for the NHS to provide this service to people with IBD and we will be able to train IBD nurses to deliver help for pain as part of their role.

Professor Christine Norton, Kings College London

What is this research looking at?

This study is looking at the management of pain in people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  Abdominal pain is to be expected with IBD is active, but there is also good evidence that for over a third of people with IBD, this pain does not go away, even when IBD is in remission.  So far, there have been no good studies into ways of dealing with this pain.  However, there is evidence that with similar types of pain, guiding people on how to manage their pain has good results, providing that the pain is not coming from a medical problem that needs treatment.  At present, chronic pain is increasingly being managed in the NHS by a programme called the ‘Pain Management Plan’ which consists of a single consultation and then follow up telephone calls or meetings over three months and there is good evidence that this works.  There is also good evidence that internet based interventions using the principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) help people with chronic pain from other causes.

The researchers want to initially work with 6-10 people with IBD to develop a specific CBT-based pain management intervention for people with IBD who have chronic abdominal pain.  They will then compare this with the Pain Management Plan using 40 patients from 4 different hospitals. For this study, people with chronic abdominal pain will first be screened to make sure their pain is not caused by a treatable reason.  If there is not a treatable reason, then they will be allocated randomly to receive either the Pain Management Plan or the new IBD pain management intervention, and follow this for 3 months.  The researchers want to see whether either or both these treatments are a practical option for people with IBD pain, whether people want to participate, do they compete the intervention, what they think of the interventions, and how they could be improved.  Both participants and the IBD nurses who took part in the study will be interviewed to gather their views and suggestions for improvements. The researchers will also test whether either or both interventions make a difference to mood, pain, and quality of life, and by how much.

Eventually, the researchers hope to use the results of the study to apply for a major grant for an intervention for IBD pain, as it will give enough information to convince funders that it is feasible. 

What do the researchers think this could mean for people with IBD?

If the researchers are able to show that the interventions make a big difference to IBD pain, they will have a strong argument for the NHS to provide this service for people with IBD.  They hope to provide new information on pain management for people with IBD, and enable people to talk more openly about this hidden problem.

Who is leading this research: Professor Christine Norton, Kings College London

Our Funding: £88,668

Duration: 36 months

Official title of application: Living with chronic abdominal pain in IBD: a PhD Fellowship developing and feasibility testing IBD pain management interventions

Tags: Pain management