Single-Session Pain Management Class Linked to Pain Reduction

Single-Session Pain Management Class Linked to Pain Reduction

Researchers designed a single-session class for more accessible pain management
Read Time: 3 minutes
Sep 1, 2021

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, the most common of which is chronic lower back pain. A recent study linked a meaningful reduction in lower back pain to attending even a single pain management class.

Who Participated in the Study?

The researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine recruited participants from an academic center in the San Francisco Bay area. Participants needed to meet the following criteria:

  • English-speaking
  • Axial lower back pain
  • Pain at least half the time in the past six months
  • Pain intensity of at least 4 on scale from 1 to 10
  • 18 to 70 years old
  • Score of at least 20 on the Pain Catastrophizing Scale
  • Ability to attend up to 8 2-hour sessions

Why Did the Researchers Perform the Study?

The Stanford researchers wanted to create a pain-management class that was more accessible for those suffering from chronic lower back pain. Dr. Beth Darnell, a doctor who was involved in the study, explained that some patients don’t have access to or aren’t able to attend multi-session treatments for their pain. This means that many would go without needed pain management care.

The purpose of the study was to determine how effective their specially-designed single-session class was compared to other pain management courses. The idea was to make access to pain management more equitable by condensing as much as possible into a single session.

How Effective Is a Single Session Pain Management Class?

The results of the study found that a single session of a pain management skills class was about equal to taking an 8-week long behavioral therapy class and was better than a health education class in terms of pain catastrophizing scores.

The data from the study found that the health education class reduced participants’ pain catastrophizing scores by 4.6%, while an 8-week behavioral therapy class reduced the score by 10.94%. The single-session pain management skills class reduced the pain catastrophizing score by 9.12%. While the 8-week course did reduce the score more, the single-session class was almost as effective.

What Is the Single Session Pain Management Skills Class Like?

Seniors stretching class

Dr. Darnell and her fellow researchers developed a single-session course specifically to teach people with chronic pain the pain self-management skills they would need to effectively manage their pain themselves. The single-session class lasts for 2 hours, is called Empowered Relief, and taught pain education as well as mindfulness principles and pain management techniques such as:

  • Relaxation
  • Self-soothing
  • Cognitive reframing

While the single-session class performed well in their study, the class hasn’t yet been tested in a clinical trial to compare it to cognitive behavioral therapy and it’s still unknown how long the benefits of the single class last.

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Mark Shulman

Dr. Mark Shulman

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), FAAOMPT, COMT, CSCS


Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists.

Mark Shulman

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Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), PRPC


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