Investigators from Washington State University recently discovered that patients living with chronic pain can actually manage the condition and minimize dependency on opioids through the use of an online program that educates them on non-pharmaceutical alternatives, such as exercise, positive thinking, and healthier coping mechanisms.
Assistant professor at WSU’s College of Nursing, Marian Wilson, studied 43 patients with chronic pain during their 8-week online course, which focused on ways to better manage the psychological, social and physiological aspects of their condition. When compared to a control group of the same size, the group that participated in the studies online said they had taken more steps to change negative thinking and utilize more relaxation techniques.
“With negative emotions, you often have that physical response of tension,” said Wilson. “So we really want people with pain to learn they have control and mastery over some of those physical symptoms. Meditation and relaxation can help with that.”
Normally, adopting these pain management techniques can be challenging for most patients, however these lead to enhanced self-efficacy, which according to Wilson, has been associated with a higher quality of life and more engagement in activities of daily living (ADLs). While the pain may never go away, patients should know that they can always take control with diversion. In fact, her study revealed 4 out of 5 online participants reported making progress in reducing pain perception or reliance on medication, compared to about only half of the control group.
“For many patients, more and more evidence is coming out that if we can get them off the opiates, or reduce their use and help them become more active, they’ll actually feel better,” Wilson said. “Plus they won’t be at risk for death from opioid overdose, which they’re at risk for now because you often have to keep increasing the opioid dose to get the same pain relief.”
The study utilized the Goalistics Chronic Pain Management Program, designed by psychologists Lina Ruehlman and Paul Karoly, and operated on funding from the Washington State Life Sciences Discovery Fund. The LSDF was first established in 2005, and supports innovative research and development in Washington state to promote life sciences competitiveness, enhance economic vitality, and improve health and health care.