The Researcher’s Summary:
Children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) often experience pain, even when receiving aggressive medical treatment. In our past research, we have found that children with JIA have different levels of pain from day to day and that children’s emotions affect their pain. For example, the ways that children handle their emotions affects how much pain interferes with everyday activities like walking, keeping up with friends or getting dressed.
In this study, we will help children learn how to manage pain and emotions in daily life. Thirty-one children will be recruited from the pediatric rheumatology clinic at Duke University Medical Center to participate in this study. We will give children smartphones (cellular phones with a computer operating system) to take home to answer questions about their pain and emotions three times per day for one week. At a subsequent clinic visit, children will be taught helpful strategies for coping with pain and emotional distress, such as breathing for relaxation or identifying and changing unhelpful thoughts about a stressful event.
After this training, children will continue to answer questions about their pain and emotions on the smartphones three times daily for three weeks, but now they will be cued to practice the newly-learned coping skills when their level of pain or emotional distress is higher than usual. In addition, children will be able to freely access smartphone programs that contain guided instructions for practicing coping skills at additional times. At the next regular clinic visit, participants will complete surveys to tell us about their results and satisfaction with using the smartphones to learn and use coping skills.
We hope to show that we are able to teach children skills to use in-the-moment to treat pain episodes and periods of emotional distress, and to demonstrate that this intervention has promise for helping children with JIA reduce pain and pain interference in their daily lives. Findings from this study will help us develop a larger study to test the intervention with more children. Ultimately, we hope this study will lead to an affordable, effective treatment that complements medical treatment to optimize pain management for children with JIA and other rheumatic diseases.