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Papers of the Week

Papers: 2 Nov 2019 - 8 Nov 2019


Human Studies

2020 Mar




Avoid or engage? Outcomes of graded exposure in youth with chronic pain using a sequential replicated single-case randomized design.


Simons L, Vlaeyen J W, Declercq L, Smith A, Beebe J, Hogan M, Li E, Kronman C, Mahmud F, Corey J, Sieberg C, Ploski C
Pain. 2020 Mar; 161(3):520-531.
PMID: 31693541.


Pain-related fear is typically associated with avoidance behavior and pain-related disability in youth with chronic pain. Youth with elevated pain-related fear have attenuated treatment responses, thus targeted treatment is highly warranted. Evidence supporting graded in-vivo exposure treatment (GET) for adults with chronic pain is considerable, but just emerging for youth. The current investigation represents the first sequential replicated and randomized single-case experimental phase design with multiple measures evaluating GET for youth with chronic pain, entitled GET Living. A cohort 27 youth (81% female) with mixed chronic pain completed GET Living. For each participant, a no-treatment randomized baseline period was compared with GET Living and 3- and 6-month follow-ups. Daily changes in primary outcomes fear and avoidance and secondary outcomes pain catastrophizing, pain intensity, and pain acceptance were assessed using electronic diaries and subjected to descriptive and model-based inference analyses (MLM). Based on individual effect size calculations, a third of participants significantly improved by the end of treatment on fear, avoidance, and pain acceptance. By follow-up over 80% of participants had improved across all primary and secondary outcomes. MLM results to examine the series of replicated cases were generally consistent. Improvements during GET Living was superior to the no-treatment randomized baseline period for avoidance, pain acceptance, and pain intensity, whereas fear and pain catastrophizing did not improve. All five outcomes emerged as significantly improved at 3- and 6-month follow-up. The results of this replicated SCED support the effectiveness of graded exposure for youth with chronic pain and elevated pain-related fear avoidance.