Researchers suggest in a recent study that pain patients who were prescribed opioids reported no improvements in their physical functioning compared to those who were not prescribed opioids.

The study, published recently in Pain Medicine, examined 789 neuropathic pain patients across Canada. The participants provided baseline measures of self-reported function at the beginning of the study, and again at 6 months and 12 months after treatment.

Adjusting for severity of the symptoms, the research showed physical functioning and disability did not improve in patients with neuropathic pain who were prescribed opioids—such as morphine, codeine, and Tylenol 3—compared with those who were not prescribed, explains a media release from University of Alberta.

“Even though opioid medications can be a powerful pain killer, it does not necessarily mean improved function will follow—pain is not the only factor in determining function,” the study’s lead author Geoff Bostick, associate professor of physical therapy at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, says in the release.

“Pain is very complex, and people experience pain at very different levels. Opioids can help people with severe pain be more comfortable, but if they are not also facilitating improved function, the impact of these medications on quality of life should be questioned,” he adds.

While improving function despite pain is difficult, there is a way forward, he shares in the release. He suggests that those who are experiencing chronic pain and are medically cleared for physical activity should use a graded approach.

This means a careful measurement of one’s tolerance to activity in order to move better.

“Instead of, say, walking until you reach your pain limit, I tell patients to walk until they are at 50% of their tolerance—walk and stop before the pain gets too bad. Each week, walking time is gradually increased. Over time, this tolerance will slowly increase, and so will physical function,” Bostick explains in the release.

[Source(s): University of Alberta, EurekAlert]