Rationale, design, and baseline findings from a randomized trial of collaborative care for chronic musculoskeletal pain in primary care

Steven K. Dobscha, Kathryn Corson, Ruth Q. Leibowitz, Mark D. Sullivan, Martha S. Gerrity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective. This article describes the rationale, design, and baseline findings from an ongoing study of collaborative care for chronic musculoskeletal pain and comorbid depression. Design. Cluster randomized clinical trial. Participants and Setting. Forty-two clinicians and 401 patients from five Veterans Affairs primary care clinics. Intervention. The intervention was based on the chronic care model, and included patient and provider activation and education, patient assessment, outcomes monitoring, and feedback to providers over 12 months. The intervention team consisted of a full-time psychologist care manager and a part-time physician internist. Approaches included goal setting emphasizing function, patient activation and educating about fear avoidance, and care management. Outcome Measures. Main outcomes are Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) score, depression severity (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), and pain severity (Chronic Pain Grade Severity subscale) at 6 and 12 months. Baseline Results. Fifteen percent of primary care patients mailed a study advertisement letter requested screening for the study. The mean age of enrolled patients was 62. Back and neck or joint pain diagnoses were present in 67% and 65% of patients, respectively. Mean pain duration was 15 years, and mean RMDQ score (range 0-24) was 14.7 (standard deviation=4.4). Sixty-five percent of patients were receiving disability. Eighteen percent of patients met criteria for major depression, 17% for posttraumatic stress disorder, and 9% for alcohol misuse. Thirty-nine percent of patients felt strongly that experiencing pain was a sign of damage, and 60% reported strong avoidance of painful activities. Conclusions. These baseline data support the rationale to develop a multifaceted approach to treat chronic pain in primary care that includes detection and treatment of psychiatric comorbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1050-1064
Number of pages15
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2008


  • Chronic Illness
  • Depression
  • Disease Management
  • Narcotics
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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