“Empowered Relief” Program Equips Patients With Effective Pain Relief Skills

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Beth Darnall, PhD

Director, Stanford Pain Relief Innovations Lab
Associate Professor, Stanford University School of Medicine
Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine
Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences (by courtesy)
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute (affiliate faculty)
Palo Alto, CA 94304

Dr. Darnall

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Best pain care integrates patient education and tools to help them manage pain and reduce their symptoms1. Multi-session psychological or “behavioral” pain treatment approaches, such as 8-session cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), are effective for equipping people with pain management skills. However, our prior research showed that patient access to these treatments is often poor, in part due to the costs and time burdens (e.g., up to 16 hours of treatment time).2

Findings from our study suggest that a one-time 2-hour pain relief skills class (“Empowered Relief”) was non-inferior to 8-session CBT for reducing multiple symptoms, including pain catastrophizing, pain intensity, and pain interference at 3 months post-treatment. We also found the single-session pain class imparted substantial reductions for pain bothersome, sleep disturbance, anxiety, fatigue and depression.

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Runners: Leaning Forward Increases Force on Hip Extensors

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Anna Warrener Ph.D.
Department of Anthropology
University of Colorado Denver
Denver, CO

Dr. Warrener

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: We became interested in looking at trunk position during running because one of us (Daniel Lieberman) had anecdotally observed people running with a variety of trunk positions, and when we went looking for academic literature on the topic, we found it was fairly scarce. We suspected that trunk position could have a major impact on the forces experienced by the lower limbs during running and even affect aspects of gait (stride length and time). So we developed a model predicting how these forces and movements might change as trunk flexion/forward leaning increased.

Our primary predictions were that more forward lean would increase “overstride” which is the distance in side view between the hip and the heel as it contacts the ground (a measure of how far your are extending your leg when you step). This in turn would increase the impact forces experienced by the lower limb at initial contact which have previously been shown to increase the risk of repetitive stress injuries. We also predicted that stride would get longer and take more time because extending the leading leg out farther forward (overstriding) would be necessary to keep the body center of mass within a base of support above the limbs. This more extended limb, we predicted, would change the angles and forces about the ankle, knee and hip joints.

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Diabetic Neuropathy: High-Frequency Spinal Cord Stimulation Offers Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Erika A. Petersen, MD, FAANS, FACS
Professor of Neurosurgery
Residency Program Director
UAMS Department of Neurosurgery

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Painful diabetic neuropathy is a common occurrence for patients with diabetes and can have a tremendous negative impact on their quality of life. Currently, the best available treatments include several types of medications and topical solutions, but there are many patients who do not achieve adequate pain relief or cannot tolerate side effects from these treatments. We need new options for patients who have tried the recommended first- and second-line treatments but still suffer with severe pain.

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New Class of Drugs May Provide Pain Relief Without Need for Opioids

PainRelief.com Interview with:
John Traynor, PhD
Edward F Domino Research Professor
Professor and Associate Chair for Research
Department of Pharmacology, Medical School
Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, College of Pharmacy
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI

Dr. Traynor

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Response: Morphine and related drugs acting at the mu-opioid receptor are the most effective treatment for moderate to severe pain, yet their use is limited by serious on-target side effects including respiratory depression, and physical and psychological dependence that has led to the opioid crisis.  Current opioid drugs are required because our own endogenous pain relieving chemicals, the enkephalins and endorphins opioid peptides, cannot efficiently relieve pain.  

We have discovered a class of drugs (positive allosteric modulators, PAMs) that bind to the mu-opioid receptor to enhance the activity of endogenous opioids.  These “enkephalin amplifiers” afford pain relief in mouse models without the need for morphine-like compounds and do so with a much reduced side-effect profile.

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Dental Opioid Prescriptions Raises Risk of Overdose in Patients and Their Families

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Kao-Ping Chua, MD, PhD
Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center
Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School
Ann Arbor MI 48109.

Dr. Kao-Ping Chua

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study? 

ResponsePrior studies suggest that opioid prescriptions for surgical procedures are associated with increased overdose risk in patients. Additionally, studies suggest that opioid prescriptions are associated with increased overdose risk in patients’ family members, who often have access to patients’ opioids. However, studies have not specifically assessed whether opioid prescriptions for dental procedures are associated with increased overdose risk in patients and their family members.

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Persistent Opioid Use for Pain Relief After Dental Procedures Higher Than Previously Reported

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Kao-Ping Chua, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center
University of Michigan

Dr. Kao-Ping Chua,

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Persistent opioid use occurs when opioid-naïve patients prescribed opioids after procedures continue to fill opioid prescriptions well past the time that acute post-procedural pain typically resolves. Studies have shown that privately insured adolescents and young adults undergoing wisdom tooth removal are more likely to develop persistent opioid use if they fill opioid prescriptions after the procedure than if they do not. However, it is unknown whether these findings generalize to a broader variety of dental procedures or to publicly insured patients covered by Medicaid.

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COVID-19: Lack of Access to Buprenorphine May Have Contributed to Opioid Overdoses During Pandemic

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Janet Currie, PhD
Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Policy Affairs
Co-Director, Center for Health and Wellbeing
Princeton University, Princeton NJ 08544

Janet Currie, PhD

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: There has been a great deal of discussion and media reports of disrupted access to care because of the pandemic, as well as reports (including the most recent numbers from the CDC which were just released) about increases in drug overdoses linked to opioids. 

We wondered how this might be related to changes in patterns of opioid prescribing and also the prescribing of buprenorphine for opioid-use disorder.

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Transcranial Neuromodulation Studied for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Markus Ploner MD
Professor of Human Pain Research
Department of Neurology
Technische Universität München
Munich, Germany

Prof. Ploner

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response: Recent studies in humans and animals have revealed that pain is associated with rhythmic brain activity termed neural oscillations. In particular, changes of neural oscillations at alpha (8 – 13 Hz) and gamma (30 – 100 Hz) frequencies in somatosensory and prefrontal brain areas have been related to pain. Thus, modulating neural oscillations to eventually modulate pain is a promising novel approach for pain treatment.

Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) is an emerging neuromodulation technique which aims at non-invasively modulating neural oscillations in the human brain. During tACS, a weak alternating current is applied to the scalp with the goal of entraining neural oscillations at the stimulation frequency, thereby increasing their amplitude. The appeal of tACS is that it is non-invasive, safe, cost-efficient, and potentially mobile which allows for broad clinical applications. Thus, tACS is increasingly explored as a new treatment approach for neuropsychiatric disorders.

In our study, we therefore explored the potential of tACS to modulate pain. We systematically applied tACS at alpha and gamma frequencies or sham tACS over somatosensory and prefrontal cortices during tonic experimental pain in healthy human participants.

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Our main findings are that, using the current setup, tACS did not modulate the perception of pain. Bayesian statistics further supported a lack of tACS effects in most conditions including prefrontal and gamma tACS. The only exception was tACS at alpha frequencies over somatosensory cortex where evidence for tACS effects on pain perception was inconclusive. 

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Readers might take away three key points.

First, neurophysiological studies indicate that modulating neuronal oscillations to eventually modulate pain is a promising novel approach for the treatment of pain.

Second, tACS is one non-invasive and simple approach to modulate neuronal oscillations.

Third, our mostly negative findings show that we are not there yet.    

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: A very general recommendation is that rigorous, well-controlled and transparent studies are needed to further explore the potential of tACS (and other neuromodulatory techniques) for treating pain. Furthermore, we should ideally make all our data available to the public so that the whole research community can take advantage of them. Finally, to advance the field, we should not only publish positive but also negative findings, as done here. 

A more specific recommendation is that modulating neuronal oscillations at alpha frequencies over somatosensory brain areas is the most promising approach for further tACS studies.

Citation:

May ES, Hohn VD, Nickel MM, Tiemann L, Gil Ávila C, Heitmann H, Sauseng P, Ploner M. Modulating Brain Rhythms of Pain using Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS) – A Sham-controlled Study in Healthy Human Participants. J Pain. 2021 Apr 9:S1526-5900(21)00191-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2021.03.150. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33845173.

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