The Effects of Pets on Chronic Pain.

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Publisher: American Occupational Therapy Association
Document Type: Article
Length: 651 words

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Abstract :

PURPOSE: Chronic pain is "pain that causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning for a duration 6 months" (APA, 2013). The CDC recently adopted opioid guidelines to discourage physicians from prescribing them (Dowell, Haegerich, & Chou, 2016). The guidelines have caused people to have difficulty getting access to pain medication and many are desperate to find alternatives for their pain (The Washington Post, 2019). With the decrease in pain medication, this study looked at whether people find relief and comfort from pets. The purpose of this study was to explore the impact pets have on the perception of pain in individuals with chronic pain and whether pets may provide an alternative to people in pain who no longer have access to pain medication. This narrative qualitative study explored pets in chronic pain patients' lives, Adult pet owners, with chronic pain, were recruited, from two Facebook groups of The National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA): "Fibro and Pain" and "Pain is Real," and its twitter feed. Inclusion criteria included adult U.S. citizens, living with chronic pain, and pet owners. METHODS: Following IRB approval, links to a qualitative survey of open-ended questions, housed on Qualtrics, were posted. Participants acknowledged consent on the welcome screen. Participants provided responses to five open-ended questions about their chronic pain conditions and how their pets affect their pain. Participants were encouraged to provide detailed answers. Qualitative data was analyzed through an iterative process, using grounded theory, until saturation was reached. Multiple researchers and data collection from multiple sources, ensured triangulation, rigor, and data trustworthiness of the data. RESULTS: 40 particpants completed the survey: 38 participants female; 2 male. Saturation was reached at 10 for a question about interactions with one's pet, and 19 for a question about participants' pain symptoms. Owned pets included Cats, dogs, cats and dogs, and cats and fish. 20 participants had one chronic pain condition; five participants reported five chronic pain conditions. Participants reported chronic pain conditions including fibromyalgia, back pain, muscle pain, Lupus, arthritis, and migraines. Participants reported less access to pain medications than they had in the past. The voices of the participants with chronic pain reported pets improve their lives by providing comfort, relaxing them, promoting activity, lessening pain, fostering hope, and improving mood. Participants reported exercises, such as yoga, walking, and stretching, lessens their pain. Participants also reported taking vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter remedies, such as magnesium, marijuana, and vitamin B, to help lessen their pain. Conclusion: In addition to the participants, popular media tells us physicians are not prescribing pain medication as they once did, leaving a gap in treatment, which pets and occupational therapy can help fill. Participants reported non-medicinal modalities that alleviated their chronic pain, suggesting potential interventions for occupational therapy to consider. This study suggests interventions occupational therapy can employ, in addition to pets, to help people manage their chronic pain, such as yoga, medication management, development of sleep patterns, community involvement, and others. IMPACT STATEMENT: Chronic pain and lack of access to pain medications presents a major barrier to participation for adults living with chronic pain. This study provides occupational therapy with a cadre of powerful, practical tools to improve practice by meeting society's needs for adults living with chronic pain.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A631787044