Patients can manage chronic pain and reduce their reliance on opioids through an internet-based programme that teaches non-medical alternatives, according to US nurse researchers.
The Washington State University researchers said the programme, which promoted increased physical activity, thinking more positively and dealing with emotions, led to patients using fewer opioids and being more confident and positive.
“Maybe that pain is never going to go away but you can divert your attention from it”
Marian Wilson, an assistant professor in the university’s college of nursing, tracked 43 people with chronic non-cancer pain as they went through an eight-week course of online tools to help them manage psychological, social and health issues associated with chronic pain. The study participants used the Goalistics Chronic Pain Management Program.
Compared to a similar-sized control group, the participants reported that they adopted more practices to change negative thinking patterns and use relaxation techniques to help control pain.
Four out of five online programme participants made progress toward goals to reduce or eliminate pain or other unspecified medications, as opposed to roughly half the controls, said the researchers in the journal Pain Management Nursing.
Ms Wilson, who did the study as part of her doctoral dissertation, said: “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.”
But she acknowledged that such techniques were hard for patients to get in traditional care settings but said they could contribute to helping patients become more confident about pain management.
“Maybe that pain is never going to go away but you can divert your attention from it,” said Ms Wilson. “You can focus on more positive things and you can absolutely get that thought on a back burner, rather than fixating on it.”
She added: “Unique to our study was the discovery that more appropriate use of opioid medicines could be an unintended consequence of participation.
“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. Plus they won’t be at risk for death from opioid overdose,” she said.