Chronic pain study seeks enrollees for non-drug treatments

Participants will be randomized to mindfulness meditation, cognitive therapy, and participation in activities they love.

Media Contact: Bobbi Nodell -, 206.543.7129

Unrelenting pain leaves no part of your life untouched. It’s hard to work, enjoy life, and do things that make you yourself. But there are proven nonpharmacological approaches to pain that are effective. And researchers at UW Medicine and University of Queensland in Australia are enrolling people in the United States with chronic pain to evaluate three approaches.

The study, Living in Full Even with Pain, will be treating participants with either mindfulness meditation, cognitive therapy, or “activation skills” – skills to increase activities, especially activities that bring pleasure and are meaningful – to see what works best for people and why.

Co-principal investigator Dr. Mark Jensen, a professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said learning how to tell our brain to respond to pain can help to make life more comfortable.

“People think pain is something that they feel in their body,” he said. “In fact, pain is processed in the brain. The body sends signals and input to the brain, like heat and pressure. Whether or not these sensations become pain is how the brain responds to that input.”

While scientists know that changing the meaning of sensations reduces the pain intensity, they don’t know why, said co-principal investigator Melissa Day, associate professor of psychology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

The approaches offered in this trial are effective, the researchers suggested. When people learn to change the meaning of their pain, change how they respond to sensations, and fill their life with more meaningful activity, they hurt less.

All trial participants will receive free treatment for their chronic pain. The treatment will be delivered by a clinical psychologist in a group treatment setting over eight weeks. They will receive two 90-minute sessions a week through a videoconference application. (All treatment is done remotely.)

Study participants must be 18 or older and live in the United States. They must experience moderate to severe chronic pain on a regular basis, currently take opioid medications on a regular basis. be able to read, speak, and understand English, and have access to the Internet and a device with a webcam and microphone.

The goal of the study is not necessarily to get people off of opioids but to give them other solutions, Day said.

After this trial, researchers will use the data from the study to better understand the mechanisms of these psychological treatments and more effectively match people to the best treatment. The results will provide more knowledge to the scientific community on treating chronic pain.

For more information, visit the study site.

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