Innovative online program helping people living with chronic pain regulate emotions and reduce flare-ups

Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA)

Australian researchers have developed a novel online program to help people living with chronic pain better self-regulate and handle negative emotions as well as mitigating painful flare ups.

Published today in the Journal of Pain, researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW have developed an Emotional Recovery Program for people living with chronic pain which has shown to help lessen pain intensity, by teaching skills to regulate and dial down difficult and intense emotions.

With 1 in 5 Australians experiencing chronic pain, this debilitating condition radically limits people’s lives and can often mean difficulties regulating emotions such as fear, worry, stress and low mood.

Sadly, people in chronic pain frequently face long wait times for treatment of more than a year, with access further restricted for rural, regional, and remote areas and indigenous communities. This is more apparent over the past year, with COVID-19 impacting access to treatment due to clinic closures and increased the risk of infection.

Developed by leading chronic pain researcher, Associate Professor Sylvia Gustin, and Emotional Recovery Trainer, Nell Norman-Nott, the Emotional Recovery Program is a blended treatment that includes six online emotion recovery skills training sessions delivered via Zoom and a web app via interactive modules and video tutorials.

Associate Professor Sylvia Gustin, says chronic pain is more than an awful sensation, it can affect our feelings, emotions beliefs and the way we are.

“Developing an effective emotional recovery program for treating the emotional suffering associated with chronic pain, is key in the management of chronic pain.

“Many chronic pain sufferers live in rural and remote areas and don’t have access to treatment. Therefore, we have developed our Emotional Recovery Program so it can be delivered online for all chronic pain sufferers in Australia to access, no matter where they live,” said Associate Professor Gustin.

Nell Norman-Nott says the trial showed there is now evidence that learning skills in emotional regulation helps people dial down difficult and intense emotions and lessen the intensity of pain.

“We commonly hear from people with chronic pain that emotional problems such as intense anger, excessive worry and stress can increase the intensity of pain. And the impact of COVID-19 has played a huge part in this, due to the contracted access to treatment due to clinic closures and the risk of infection.

“As an internet-delivered intervention, the Emotional Recovery Program is remotely accessible to anyone with an internet connection and smart device, while also mitigating risks associated with COVID-19 infection,” said Mrs Norman-Nott.

/Public Release.