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Thorney Advisors Insights

Behavioral Health Management

Managing Chronic Pain: Alternatives to Opiates

Promoting well-being by prevention or intervention...

September 24, 2018

Written by Marlene Kurban, M.S., MBA

Prescription and over-the-counter medications can play an important role in the management of chronic pain. However, it is important for consumers to be fully informed of the benefits and risks. Narcotics, or opioid medications, are of particular concern because of the potential for abuse and addiction. Long-term use of opioids also increases the likelihood of adverse side effects such as constipation, nausea, respiratory depression, cognitive problems, and hormonal changes.

Close medical monitoring is essential with any pain relief regimen. Patients respond in different ways to pain medications and may experience allergic reactions or serious side effects that worsen their symptoms. Even over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen can cause problems such as stomach bleeding and liver damage, and should be used exactly as instructed by a health professional.

Many patients find that adding complementary or alternative treatment approaches can provide additional relief of chronic pain. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) places a high priority on pain-related research, and NCCIH-supported studies are building an evidence base on the effectiveness of alternative approaches to pain management. Some studies have demonstrated the benefits of acupuncture, meditation, massage therapy, yoga, hypnosis, and psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in particular can help patients identify and change negative thinking and behavior patterns that make their lives more difficult. CBT is considered the “gold standard” psychological treatment by the American Psychological Association for patients who suffer from chronic pain.

While medication can play an important role, by itself it is seldom the answer. An integrated approach to care that includes self-management techniques to reduce pain, such as relaxation and stress management strategies, is usually more successful in improving the person’s functioning and quality of life.  For more information email us at

For more information on complementary health approaches to chronic pain, visit the website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at

The views expressed in these posts are those of the authors and are current only through the date stated. These views are subject to change at any time based upon market or other conditions, and Thorney Advisors disclaims any responsibility to update such views. These views may not be relied upon as medical advice and may not be relied upon as an indication of medical policy on behalf of any Thorney Advisors consultants. The discussion herein is general in nature and is provided for informational purposes only. There is no guarantee as to its accuracy or completeness.

About the Author

Marlene (Dube) Kurban, M.S., MBA

Executive Advisor, Writer, Behavioral Health and Digital Marketing Consultant

Marlene is a seasoned behavioral health professional with expertise in directing Employee Assistance Programs, professional geriatric care management and home care services. In her former role as Vice President of Business Development and Marketing at Advanced Behavioral Health, Inc., Marlene wrote grants and proposals, successfully marketed products and services including an electronic health record and a national Employee Assistance Program, developed website content and marketing materials, exhibited at trade shows, and worked collaboratively with stakeholders on joint projects. She has developed web content for numerous organizations and is experienced with various platforms including WordPress, Umbraco, Wix, and other content management systems.  


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