Combining treatments to better manage pain

The 2016 National Health Interview Survey of 17,000 Americans reports that 1 in 5 people suffer chronic pain1. Significant effort and money are being invested by companies ranging from large Pharma to small Tech start-ups to address this “pain epidemic” as evidenced in the database showing over 2,500 “pain” trials which are actively recruiting. Some of the more interesting studies are looking at the benefits of combining pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches to pain management, reflecting a growing recognition within the medical community that a multi-modal approach can often offer a range of significant patient benefits.

While the body of clinical evidence supporting a multimodal approach grows, we have to recognise that many people who suffer from pain already mix-and-match different therapies to meet their individual needs. Moreover, they are talking about their experiences and treatments, sharing advice and influencing each other through the many on-line blogs and forums dedicated to chronic pain. After spending a few hours surfing through these resources it’s clear that a large proportion of sufferers still have unmet pain needs and they are unafraid to try different, often non-pharmacologic, solutions in addition to their medications. These non-pharmacological treatments are varied and can include Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), Movement Therapy, Massage Therapy, Virtual Reality Assisted Distraction, Mindfulness and Suggestion Techniques, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Acupuncture.

In fact, the most powerful insight is that people don’t expect there to be a single product or treatment which will address everyone’s pain (though that would be nice). Instead, they are looking for a range of options that are tailored for their specific needs which include social and emotional elements, not just functional pain reduction. For example, time, money, ease of use, on-demand access, drug-free, stigma-free, and building pain treatment into their health and wellness routines are all important elements that pain sufferers are looking to address.

This leads to an interesting question we should ask ourselves… “how can the medical community and companies help each pain sufferer along their treatment journey to identify the right combination of pain treatments that meet their specific set of needs – and adjust depending on changes in their circumstances?” 

The answer probably lies at the intersection of current Consumer and Healthcare trends. People are wanting to take more responsibility and control of their Health and Wellness status and are prepared to use technology to achieve this goal.

The scientists at Cambridge Design Partnership have deep consumer experience in this sector as well as proven technical capabilities to:

  • monitor people and their behaviours with wearable technology and instrumented devices,
  • capture and analyse this data to create useful insights,
  • use machine learning to draw out further insights and make recommendations and
  • implement complementary techniques like Biofeedback, to reinforce therapies. 

This toolkit enables us to create new and exciting products and services to better help pain sufferers optimise their individual treatment regimens – what to use and when to use it. Remember, pain sufferers are already experimenting to find the best multimodal regime for themselves – we can help them take the next step.

For more information about our capabilities in Consumer Healthcare, please contact Graham Myatt at

1. James Dahlhamer et al, “Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults 
United States, 2016”, Weekly / September 14, 2018 / 7(36);1001–1006.
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Graham Myatt

Senior Healthcare Consultant and North America Business Development Lead