Newswise — A four-week interdisciplinary pain management program for worker’s compensation patients with chronic pain significantly reduced their opioid and benzodiazepine use, according to a new study presented this week at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting in Puerto Rico.

Combined use of opioids and benzodiazepine, two widely used classes of medication for pain management, greatly increases the potential risk for abuse and overdose. Researchers at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, Ill., conducted a study to see if a month-long, interdisciplinary pain management program might help reduce the use of these drugs in worker’s compensation patients dealing with chronic pain.

“We were interested in seeing how effective the interdisciplinary pain program would be in decreasing opioid use for chronic pain patients,” said Calvin Truong, a medical student at Midwestern University and the study’s co-author. “There is an urgent need for more solutions to the current opioid epidemic. The chronic use of opioids has come under scrutiny for its abuse potential and potential deleterious physiological and psychological effects, and even more dangerous when combined with benzodiazepines.” 

In the retrospective cohort study, 137 patients in worker’s compensation programs from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2016, were analyzed. Patients received biweekly physician visits during their four-week program, and were re-evaluated eight weeks after the start of the program. Outcome measures in the study included change in morphine milligram equivalents (MME), and the frequency of concurrent benzodiazepine users at the initial, discharge and re-evaluation dates of the four-week program.

Out of the 137 patients in the study, 30 (22%) did not complete the interdisciplinary pain program, while 107 (78%) did. Twenty-two (16%) of the patients used a combination of opioids and benzodiazepines. By the re-evaluation date of the program, there was a 64% reduction in patients who had concurrent use of both opioids and benzodiazepines.

When the MME data at the discharge date was compared to the MME data at the program’s start, the researchers found a significant difference in the mean MME. They also found that there were significantly smaller proportions of patients taking benzodiazepines at the discharge date compared to the program start date.

The study’s findings show that a four-week interdisciplinary pain management program could significantly reduce opioid and benzodiazepine use in worker’s compensation patients with pain.

These findings could help increase the use of interdisciplinary pain management programs to effectively reduce the use of concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine medications to a safer and more minimal dose, while still allowing patients to safely and effectively manage their pain. It could potentially serve a role in bringing some relief to the current opioid epidemic,” said Truong.



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