Core components of Pain Rehabilitation Center programs

By Mayo Clinic Staff
Man standing and stretching his leg Stretching exercises

A physical therapist demonstrates stretching exercises.

Person using a vacuum cleaner Efficiency training

Occupational therapist teaches a person how to perform housework more efficiently, to reduce pain.

The Pain Rehabilitation Center programs have several core components to help people manage their pain. Some components may not be available in each program. Core components include:

  • Medication management and chemical health education. Narcotic pain medications can worsen pain over time. Medications can also cause side effects that limit function, and some medications can become habit-forming. PRC staff works with each person to gradually reduce each person's medications, with the goal of eliminating medication use.
  • Stress management and relaxation techniques. Stress and pain are interrelated. Stress management training is designed to break the cycle between pain and stress. In classes, staff explains coping strategies such as relaxation techniques.
  • Physical therapy. Physical therapists instruct people in strengthening, stretching and aerobic conditioning. Therapists also educate people about proper body mechanics, lifting techniques, posture, aerobic exercise benefits and pain behaviors.
  • Occupational therapy. Occupational therapists teach people how to balance and modify activities to improve function. Return-to-work issues are addressed as are time management and office ergonomics.
  • Recreational therapy. Recreational therapists help people incorporate leisure into their schedules. PRC participants value this time during their treatment as they are able to connect with other participants and have fun.
  • Group therapy. Group therapy sessions help people recognize and deal with negative changes from pain and emotions that can increase pain and stress. Group therapy combines informal discussions about how lives have been affected by chronic pain and formal lectures on topics to help people deal effectively with pain.
  • Sleep. Chronic pain has a major impact on sleep. Sleep plays an important role in how a person manages daily activities, chronic pain and overall mood. In the PRC, staff assesses each person's quality of sleep and educates people about techniques for better sleep.
  • Biofeedback. Using specialized sensors and equipment, biofeedback provides information about how body processes such as heart rate and muscle tension can be negatively affected by chronic pain. Biofeedback can help people learn to consciously increase control over these processes and maintain control during daily activities.
  • Lifestyle management. Changes related to nutrition, tobacco use, sleep management and substance use can help people manage pain more effectively. Pastoral care and vocational counseling can be arranged to further improve overall quality of life and functioning.
  • Complementary and alternative therapies. Therapies such as relaxation, yoga and tai chi may help treat conditions such as chronic anxiety, pain and sleep difficulties. Staff will explain several therapies to people, emphasizing steps to consider in making safe and effective choices.