In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

How Primary Care May Help Bring More Chronic Pain Relief

primary care

Primary care doctors around the country have many patients who suffer from chronic pain. Whether it’s from low back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, or something else, chronic pain is a major issue from coast to coast. New research sheds light on a new option that primary care doctors may be able to offer their chronic pain patients in order to help them find some relief.

A study published in the December 2021 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association shared the findings of a study conducted that involved primary care-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain [1].

The study involved 850 patients who have chronic pain. Their pain was from a mix of chronic conditions, but they were all receiving long-term opioid therapy for their pain. The researchers coordinated a cognitive behavioral therapy session that would be delivered at the primary care offices.

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Participants in the study were either put into the cognitive behavioral therapy program or they continued on with their usual treatment. Those who took part in the cognitive behavioral therapy program for their chronic pain participated in a 12-week program that consisted of 90-minute group sessions.

The group sessions that were delivered by primary care were led by clinicians, such as a physical therapist, nurse care manager, pharmacist, and behavioral specialist. They were each medical professionals who taught pain self-management skills.

What the results of the program showed was that those who participated in the cognitive behavioral therapy sessions had a modest improvement compared to those who continued with their usual treatment. They had made improvements in their pain intensity and pain-related disability, and they were not losing as much sleep due to the pain.

When it came to pharmaceutical usage, the researchers report that those who were in the cognitive behavioral therapy program used less benzodiazephines, but there was no significant change in the amount of opioid usage.

Despite the prescription drug usage not significantly dropping, adding a primary care-delivered cognitive therapy program for chronic pain patients is still beneficial. The research supports the notion that the treatment program will help to reduce pain intensity, help them reduce pain-related disability, and may improve their sleep quality. Each of these benefits makes it worthwhile for chronic pain patients to undertake the program.

This is just one more tool that we can use to help bring relief to those who suffer from chronic pain. The more options we have, the more successful we will be at helping people to feel better, and improve their quality of life.

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  1. Journal of the American Medical Association. Primary Care-Delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain. December 2021.

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.

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Posted: March 17, 2022
<a href="" target="_self">Dr. Steven H. Richeimer</a>

Dr. Steven H. Richeimer

Steven Richeimer, M.D. is a renowned specialist on issues related to chronic pain. He is the chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California. He has written or co-written a large number of scientific articles about pain medicine. He recently published an instructive book and guide for pain patients. Dr. Richeimer has given numerous lectures to medical and lay audiences throughout the U.S.

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