Current Research and Scholarly Interests
Current projects include:
(1) Pre-surgical delivery of single-session treatment for pain catastrophizing
(2) Mechanisms of pain catastrophizing treatment (pain-CBT and single-session tx)
(3) Quantitative sensory impacts of a pain catastrophizing induction in women with chronic pain
(4) Benzodiazepine and opioid prescribing patterns in US primary care visits
(5) Sex differences in brain structure for patients taking opioids for chronic pain vs. opioid naïve chronic pain patients
(6) Minimizing prescription opioid risks
(7) Mechanisms of complementary and alternative treatments for chronic low back pain
(8) Relationship between opioid prescribing and pain catastrophizing
I have dedicated a large portion of my professional career to studying pain catastrophizing, and quantifying the clinical and behavioral correlates, and to developing an effective, efficient, and specific treatment. I also developed a novel experimental model—a 10-minute pain catastrophizing induction—that allows us to study the immune responses (Darnall et al, Gender Med, 2010) and changes in sensory perception and neural functioning that occur after induced catastrophizing. These studies are designed to inform our understanding of the mechanisms by which pain catastrophizing shapes neural functioning, pain perception, and ultimately CNS structure in women with chronic pain. Current and future studies will use fMRI to examine the neurocorrelates, and CHOIR (Collaborative Health Outcomes Information Registry) to comprehensively phenotype the psychophysical impacts of pain catastrophizing, how we can reverse these negative psychobehavioral patterns (treatment mechanisms), and how early treatment may serve as chronic pain prophylaxis.
I have a specific passion for developing low-cost, low-burden, easily accessible treatments that reduce suffering in patients. My work in this area includes the development of 4 patient products: a book (Less Pain, Fewer Pills, 2014), an enhanced pain management CD (2013), an evidence-based DVD (2010) (Darnall & Li, J Rehabil Med, 2010), and a standard pain management CD (2010). In 2013, I developed a single-session 2-hour class to treat pain catastrophizing (Darnall et al, J Pain Res, 2014; also see ‘treatment’ at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pain_Catastrophizing). The class is novel because pain catastrophizing is typically treated across 6-12 individual or group psychology sessions, and thus treatment imposes substantial burdens to patients in terms of time and costs. We are now testing the single-session pain catastrophizing class in the perioperative setting to determine its efficacy in improving time to pain resolution and opioid cessation, as well as in improving other post-surgical outcomes.