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NCCIH Research Blog

NCCIH Research Programs to be Featured at the 2015 American Pain Society Meeting

May 8, 2015

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.

Emmeline Edwards, Ph.D.


Division of Extramural Research

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

NCCIH priorities in pain research and cutting-edge pain management research will be presented at the upcoming 2015 American Pain Society (APS) annual meeting. Chronic pain impacts 116 million people in the United States annually. With U.S. military forces serving in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military personnel and veterans have been particularly impacted, with rates of chronic pain ranging from 28 to 82 percent. The high prevalence of comorbid neuropsychiatric conditions in the veteran population (including posttraumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders, depression, and traumatic brain injury) complicates the management of chronic pain in veterans. Further, the high prevalence of prescription opioid use among veterans for the treatment of chronic pain is of growing concern. There is a critical need for effective systemic and nonpharmacologic pain management strategies that are feasible and acceptable to complement the medical management of pain.

Over the past 3 years, NCCIH has initiated a research program on pain in military populations. At the APS meeting, NCCIH is sponsoring a symposium that will address the gap between existing knowledge and the need for integrated models of care that incorporate evidence-based complementary health approaches to improve pain management practice. Dr. Erik Groessl will present preliminary evidence and ongoing research on the efficacy of yoga for chronic low-back pain in veterans. Dr. Karen Seal will describe research examining an innovative Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care model using decision support, motivational interviewing, and development of a personal plan to improve pain self-management and reduce high-risk opioid use. Dr. Robert Kerns will describe research efforts to develop data tools to leverage VA medical record data using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to assess quality of pain management in primary care and use of complementary health approaches in veterans with chronic pain.

At the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Shared Interest Group (CAM SIG), the recently released “Pain Research Agenda” will be discussed. At that forum Dr. Partap Khalsa, Deputy Director of the Division of Extramural Research, will highlight NCCIH pain research priorities and will engage the audience in a discussion of nonpharmacologic health strategies for the management of chronic pain.

Join us at APS 2015 and learn about NCCIH research directions. Below are some useful references:

  • Institute of Medicine. (2011). Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research (
  • Seal K, Cohen G, Waldrop A, et al. Substance use disorders in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in VA healthcare, 2001-2010: implications for screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2011;116(1-3):93–101.
  • Lew HL, Otis JD, Tun C, et al. Prevalence of chronic pain, posttraumatic stress disorder, and persistent postconcussive symptoms in OIF/OEF veterans: polytrauma clinical triad. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. 2009;46(6):697–702.
  • Helmer DA, Chandler H K, Quigley KS, et al. Chronic widespread pain, mental health, and physical role function in OEF/OIF veterans. Pain Medicine. 2009;10(7):1174–1182.
  • Toblin RL, Quartana PJ, Riviere LA, et al. Chronic Pain and Opioid Use in U.S. Soldiers After Combat Deployment. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2014;174(8):1400–1401.
  • Seal KH, Shi Y, Cohen G, et al. Association of mental health disorders with prescription opioids and high-risk opioid use in U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. JAMA. 2012;307(9):940A–947.


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