Pain management class aims to use alternative techniques to get patients off opioids

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LAFAYETTE, Colo. -- In a classroom at Kaiser Permanente in Lafayette, a group of patients is learning about pain management. Each person has lived with terrible pain, and was prescribed medication.

Now they are participating in an eight-week pain management program, hoping to use alternative means to decrease their dependency on opioids.

“I can see changes in people,” said Lynell Reed from Boulder.

Years ago, Lynell was in a car wreck and damaged her neck.  Over the years she had two surgeries, and she says her doctors kept prescribing her opioids for pain.  “I’ve pretty much tried them all,” she said.  “I stopped being involved in as many things. I just didn`t have the energy or the mental capacity.”

Eventually she ended up in the integrated pain program at Kaiser Permanente, and her life started to change.

The group meets with dietitians, physical therapists, psychologists asnd doctors who are medical acupuncturists.  They learn meditation and mindfulness techniques.

“We know that opioids are about 30 percent effective in helping with pain…  Deep breathing, relaxation and meditation are about 50 to 60 percent effective,” said Amanda Bye, a psychologist with the program.  “We focus on diet.  We focus on exercise, changing their thoughts, helping with depression and anxiety, because we know negative emotions absolutely affect chronic pain,” she said.

Some patients, like Lynell,  have had amazing results.  “All those techniques that I was given through the pain clinic combined to help me  really decrease my pain, “she said.

The group helped her through withdrawal, which was grueling, and today she is opioid free.  “I feel 100 percent better. I feel like me again!” She said.

Doctors hope other patients on opioids will embrace the program as well.   “You see people whose function and quality of life have really gone down,” said Dr. Scott Clemensen.  He adds that there is a high risk of unintentional overdose.  “I worry about the risk and the benefit of those medications.  It’s far too much for a single person to try and handle that on their own.”

He thinks the integrated pain service, with so many professionals supporting each patient, can work.  Lynell says she is proof.

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