Menstrual pain which is severe enough to impact on daily activities is very common amongst menstruating females. Research suggests that menstrual pain which impacts on daily functioning may be even more prevalent amongst those with intellectual disabilities. Despite this, little research attention has focused on pain management programmes for those with intellectual disabilities.
The aims of this pilot study were to develop and evaluate a theory-based cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programme for menstrual pain management in young women with intellectual disabilities.
The study utilised a mixed methods controlled clinical trial to evaluate elements from a CBT programme called Feeling Better (McGuire & McManus, 2010). The Feeling Better programme is a modular, manualised intervention designed for people with an intellectual disability and their carers. The programme was delivered to 36 young women aged 12 – 30 years who have a Mild - Moderate Intellectual Disability, split between two conditions. The treatment group received the Feeling Better intervention and the control group received treatment as usual. To evaluate the effectiveness of the programme, measures were taken of key pain variables including impact, knowledge, self-efficacy and coping. Process evaluation was conducted to examine which elements of the programme were most successful in promoting change.
Participants in the intervention group were expected to report the use of a greater number of coping strategies and have greater knowledge of pain management strategies following participation in the intervention and at three month follow-up, when compared to control group participants. A significant advantage of the study was the use of mixed methods and inclusion of process evaluation to determine which elements of a cognitive behavioural therapy programme work best for individuals with intellectual disabilities.