Breaking Cycle of Pain and Stress in Chronic Pain Patients Dependent on Opioids

July 24th, 2015

Join Together (7/22/15): Doctors at Stanford University are trying to help people dependent on opioid painkillers break the vicious cycle in which physical pain and emotional distress exacerbate one another.

Through an intensive week-long inpatient program that combines physical and occupational therapy, lifestyle and behavioral modifications and medication, patients have experienced significant improvements in pain levels, emotional functioning and physical activity, according to Ravi Prasad, PhD, Assistant Chief of Stanford’s Division of Pain Medicine.

People in chronic pain can become dependent on painkillers because they believe the pills can cure their pain, Dr. Prasad explained. “But pain pills aren’t a magic bullet, so they have an emotional setback when they try it and it doesn’t fix the problem,” he says.

The Stanford program takes a different approach, by using a combination of medical, physical and behavioral management to help patients learn to cope with their pain. “They learn to treat it like other chronic conditions, such as diabetes and asthma,” he says. “The goal is to improve the quality of life and functioning.”

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