Provider and patient perspectives on opioids and alternative treatments for managing chronic pain: a qualitative study

Lauren S. Penney, Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Lynn L. DeBar, Charles Elder, Richard A. Deyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: Current literature describes the limits and pitfalls of using opioid pharmacotherapy for chronic pain and the importance of identifying alternatives. The objective of this study was to identify the practical issues patients and providers face when accessing alternatives to opioids, and how multiple parties view these issues. Methods: Qualitative data were gathered to evaluate the outcomes of acupuncture and chiropractic (A/C) services for chronic musculoskeletal pain (CMP) using structured interview guides among patients with CMP (n = 90) and primary care providers (PCPs) (n = 25) purposively sampled from a managed care health care system as well as from contracted community A/C providers (n = 14). Focus groups and interviews were conducted patients with CMP with varying histories of A/C use. Plan PCPs and contracted A/C providers took part in individual interviews. All participants were asked about their experiences managing chronic pain and experience with and/or attitudes about A/C treatment. Audio recordings were transcribed and thematically coded. A summarized version of the focus group/interview guides is included in the Additional file 1. Results: We identified four themes around opioid use: (1) attitudes toward use of opioids to manage chronic pain; (2) the limited alternative options for chronic pain management; (3) the potential of A/C care as a tool to help manage pain; and (4) the complex system around chronic pain management. Despite widespread dissatisfaction with opioid medications for pain management, many practical barriers challenged access to other options. Most of the participants’ perceived A/C care as helpful for short term pain relief. We identified that problems with timing, expectations, and plan coverage limited A/C care potential for pain relief treatment. Conclusions: These results suggest that education about realistic expectations for chronic pain management and therapy options, as well as making A/C care more easily accessible, might lead to more satisfaction for patients and providers, and provide important input to policy makers. Trial registration:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number164
JournalBMC family practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 24 2017


  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Chronic pain
  • Complementary medicine
  • Opioids
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


Dive into the research topics of 'Provider and patient perspectives on opioids and alternative treatments for managing chronic pain: a qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this