“We began as strangers but were quickly able to share our concerns because of the feeling of safety.”


Chronic pain is a public health problem that affects over 100 million Americans and costs the nation up to $635 billion each year in medical treatment and lost productivity.  This is more than the total number of people affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined.

Treatments for chronic pain currently include medications, surgery, behavioral interventions, psychological counseling, rehabilitative and physical therapy, and complementary and alternative therapies.

However, a new study exploring the benefits of a support group for patients with chronic pain was recently piloted at Phelps Memorial Hospital in collaboration with the College of New Rochelle. The objective of the study was to observe whether the support  group would help chronic pain sufferers manage their pain without additional pharmacological interventions. Dorothy Larkin, PhD, RN, CS, associate professor at The College of New Rochelle’s graduate program in holistic nursing, facilitated the group along with co-facilitators Pamela Louis, director of the Phelps Wound Healing Institute; Martha Maresco, MS, RN-BC, CAPA, nurse manager of the Phelps Pain Center; and Judyth Klein, BSN, staff nurse at the Pain Center.

Group members attended an orientation session, where they were each asked to set a positive health goal for themselves and to score their pain on a visual analog scale. At the five weekly sessions that followed, progress toward their health goals and pain scores were recorded. Participants were encouraged to give and receive support from each other and were also trained in self-hypnosis, relaxation techniques and guided imagery.

Remarks from participants regarding their experience were positive:
“We began as strangers but were quickly able to share our concerns because of the feeling of safety.”

“It was easier to stay focused on health-enhancing activities with weekly reinforcement.” 

“Because of my high pain levels, I had difficulty bringing up specific images, but with regular guided imagery, I have learned to move into a more comfortable and relaxed state—resulting in decreased pain levels.”

“It was interesting for me to really see the progress I have made. I learned to deal better with my problem!  Perhaps I no longer feel so overwhelmed.”
“The professionals had a lot to offer. I used techniques I learned when I was stuck in an airport—it helped.”

“The group appreciated having the opportunity to gather with other people who understood their situation and were able to give back to them,” said Martha Maresco. “In fact, we discovered that after the five-week group ended, the members began meeting on their own at a local diner for continued support. We look forward to offering pain support groups in the future. It is evident that they fill a need that is not being met.”

 The goal of the Pain Center at Phelps is to improve the quality of life for individuals with chronic pain. For more information about pain management at Phelps, call 914-366-3794.

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