A range of interventions can treat chronic pain, from over the counter medications to opioids to massage therapy. Often, doctors use a trial and error approach before they find the right treatment plan. This process can take a while, especially if patients have a hard time recalling or describing the effects of their most recent treatment.
The Personalized Research for Monitoring Pain Treatment (PREEMPT) study was designed to assess the potential benefits of using N-of-1 trials to help patients and physicians identify effective pain treatment strategies.
In the study, 108 patients with chronic pain worked with their physician to identify two pain treatment options. They then used a smartphone app to alternate between those treatment options and keep track of a range of outcomes, including pain intensity, fatigue, drowsiness and sleep problems. Researchers compared the experience of these patients with a control group of 107 patients who received their typical care from a physician.
Both the patients using the N-of-1 trial and the control group experienced improvements in their pain levels, but there was no difference in pain improvement between the two groups. However, researchers did see more discussions about medication and higher-quality discussions about medications among physicians and patients in the N-of-1 trial.