Butler Researchers Receive NIH Grant to Study Yoga as a Treatment for Pain

Release Date: 09/27/2016


Researchers at Butler Hospital have been awarded a research grant to study yoga and health education classes to treat chronic pain in people with a history of opioid use disorder who are currently receiving opioid agonist therapy (OAT). OAT refers to medications including buprenorphine and methadone. The three-year grant was awarded by the National Institutes of Health and totals over $600,000.

Chronic pain is a significant problem for people receiving OAT. At least half of patients receiving OAT have chronic pain. Chronic pain is associated with impaired functioning, psychiatric problems, physical problems, and increased likelihood of misuse of opioids or other illicit drugs. Pharmacologic pain treatment in OAT patients is complicated by issues such as increased pain sensitivity that may be related to opioid use, increased tolerance of opioids, other substance use, and patients' own fears about medications and addiction. The research team is led by principal investigators Michael Stein, MD, and Lisa Uebelacker, PhD. They are collaborating with Dr. Genie Bailey from Stanley Street Treatment and Resources in Massachusetts. They hypothesize that hatha yoga may be a beneficial adjunctive approach to treating chronic pain and preventing opioid misuse during OAT. Yoga includes benefits of relaxation training, physical activity, and mindfulness training in a unified practice.

In this particular study, the research group will conduct treatment development research that will prepare them to later study whether hatha yoga might be an effective adjunctive treatment for pain in people enrolled in OAT. They believe that, relative to a control group, yoga may decrease pain-related disability, decrease pain, and decrease opioid misuse.

The current project will include two phases. In phase 1, researchers will use feedback from patient focus groups and experts to refine a yoga program and a health education intervention for specific use in people enrolled in OAT with chronic pain. In phase 2, researchers will conduct a pilot randomized clinical trial investigating the feasibility, acceptability, safety, and preliminary effectiveness of yoga versus health education for people with chronic pain who are enrolled in OAT. Upon conclusion, the project will yield materials, experience, and pilot data necessary for the next stage of this line of research, namely, a fully-powered randomized clinical trial investigating whether yoga is an effective adjunctive intervention for chronic pain in this patient group.

About Butler Hospital

Butler Hospital, a member of Care New England, is the only private, nonprofit psychiatric and substance abuse hospital serving adults, seniors and adolescents in Rhode Island and southeastern New England. Founded in 1844, it was the first hospital in Rhode Island and has earned a reputation as the leading provider of innovative psychiatric treatments in the region. The Major Affiliated Teaching Hospital for Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Butler is recognized worldwide as a pioneer in conducting cutting-edge research.