Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent, disabling, and persistent symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). Approximately 50 - 60% of adults with multiple sclerosis experience moderate or severe, persistent pain. Medications rarely provide adequate pain relief and can entail negative side-effects. As a result, individuals with Multiple Sclerosis have become increasingly interested in nonpharmacologic approaches to pain management.
Previously completed clinical trials, and those of others, support the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for pain in people with Multiple Sclerosis. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to decrease pain, decrease pain interference, and improve mood, sleep, and fatigue. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is another promising non-pharmacologic treatment that has been shown to improve pain outcomes in people with chronic pain; mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may also benefit individuals with Multiple Sclerosis and chronic pain. Although both of these treatments are effective pain treatments, the investigators do not know if one is more effective for the other. Furthermore, it is likely that there are both responders and non-responders to each of the treatments. That is, for any individual, two different treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may not necessarily be similarly beneficial in addressing pain. There is an urgent need to understand variability in responses across different psychosocial treatment interventions which will, in turn, lead to more effective and better-targeted interventions for chronic pain in Multiple Sclerosis. In other words, the investigators need to better understand for whom each of these pain interventions work best. Such knowledge will lead to better patient-treatment matching and, ultimately, better treatment outcomes.
This study is the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) comparing eight 2-hour sessions of group video-conference delivered mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy to usual care for chronic pain in 240 adults with Multiple Sclerosis. This study will identify not only the unique benefits conferred by each these two treatments but also for whom each treatment is most suitable. This study will address two specific aims:
Aim 1: To determine the efficacy of group-based, videoconference-delivered mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy interventions, relative to usual care, in reducing pain intensity (the primary outcome) in adults with chronic pain and Multiple Sclerosis. Hypothesis 1: Primary Study Hypothesis: Participants randomly assigned to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy will report significantly greater reductions in average pain intensity (primary outcome) relative to participants assigned to usual care at post-treatment (12 weeks post randomization, primary endpoint).
Aim 2: To increase the ability to more effectively match patients to treatments by identifying pain treatment moderators. Although on average similar outcomes are expected in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, it is expected that there will be individual differences in who responds to each treatment. Specifically, that baseline mindfulness, behavioral activation, and pain catastrophizing will be associated with treatment response for the active treatment arms. Thus, to address Aim 2, the investigators will explore the ability of baseline mindfulness, behavioral activation, and pain catastrophizing to predict response to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The investigators hypothesize that (1) baseline pain catastrophizing will be positively associated with treatment response for the two active treatment arms, but not the usual care condition (Hypothesis 2a); (2) baseline behavioral activation will be positively associated with treatment response for the two active treatment arms, but not the usual care condition (Hypothesis 2b), and (3) baseline mindfulness will be positively associated with treatment response to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy but not to either cognitive-behavioral therapy or the usual care condition (Hypothesis 2c).
In addition to testing the above specific hypotheses, the investigators will explore: (1) the effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy relative to each other on both the primary (i.e., change in average pain intensity) and secondary outcomes (pain interference and key co-morbid symptoms including fatigue, sleep, and depressive symptoms), as Hypothesis 1 pertains only to the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy relative to the usual care control, not to each other; (2) the relative effects of all three treatment conditions on the secondary outcomes; (3) the maintenance, loss or gain in any treatment effects at 6-months post-treatment; (4) dose effects; and (5) additional potential moderators of outcome, including demographics, baseline pain and disease characteristics (e.g., pain severity, pain type, disease severity) and baseline depressive symptom severity and fatigue.
Impact. As the first RCT evaluating the efficacy of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy relative to cognitive-behavioral therapy for chronic pain in adults with Multiple Sclerosis, study findings will provide critical information about the relative benefits of both mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy compared to one another and to usual care. This will determine the value of both of these approaches as adjunctive pain management tools, and if results support the use of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, this will expand the currently available treatment options for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Remote intervention delivery using video-conference technology may improve the reach of these nonpharmacologic interventions, transcending geographical, transportation, and other access barriers. In addition, the investigators anticipate that increased knowledge concerning patient characteristics associated with response to treatment (i.e., treatment effect moderators) may improve treatment efficacy by better matching patients to the most appropriate treatments. All of these findings will contribute to our long-term goal of increasing the availability and efficacy of chronic pain treatments for individuals with Multiple Sclerosis and chronic pain.