Chronic Pain: Online Alternative Helps Patients With Management, Emotions

First Posted: Jul 09, 2015 01:36 PM EDT

The American Academy of Medicine estimates that over 100 million Americans are dealing with chronic pain. Though issues resulting from chronic pain are oftentimes treated with different types of medication, researchers at Washington State University have discovered that patients can manage pain and reduce their reliance on opioids with the help of an Internet-based program that teaches non-medical alternatives involving increased physical activity, keeping positive and dealing with emotions that come with pain.

"With negative emotions, you often have that physical response of tension," study author Marian Wilson, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing, said in a news release. "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."

For the study, Wilson tracked 43 people with chronic non-cancer pain throughout an eight-week course of online tools to manage psychological, social and health issues linked with chronic pain. Then, she compared a similar-sized control group.

Findings revealed that patients who used the Internet pain management program were better equipped to adopt positive thinking with the help of certain relaxation techniques provided that helped them take control of their pain; researchers added that some of the provided techniques are hard to get in traditional care settings. Yet learning them can go a long way in helping patients feel more at ease in the future and any pain in the present. In fact, previous studies have shown that confidence-boosting techniques like these, known as "self-efficacy," are also linked to a higher quality of life, with the ability to return to work and higher levels of activity.

Furthermore, Wilson found that four out of five online program participants made progress toward goals in reducing or even eliminating pain and the need for certain unspecified medications when compared to counterparts from the control group.

"Maybe that pain is never going to go away but you can divert your attention from it," said Wilson. "You can focus on more positive things and you can absolutely get that thought on a back burner rather than fixating on it."

The authors noted that 60 percent of the more than 15,000 opioid-overdose deaths each year in the United States are from medications obtained through legitimate prescriptions. Opioids can also become less effective over time while actually increasing a user's perception of pain.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Pain Management Nursing.

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