Harvard Osher Director Quoted in “Finding Alternatives to Opioids” Article

News Harvard University

“Most cases of chronic pain are complex. The reaction of the central nervous system can amplify and perpetuate the pain,” says Dr. Helene Langevin, director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston.

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Intense stress or danger triggers an array of physical responses, including the release of hormones including endorphins, adrenaline and cortisol—the so-called stress hormone—all of which play a role in suppressing pain, Langevin says. “These things keep us going in the face of a threat. If you’re running from a lion in fear of your life, you’re not going to worry about stepping on a sharp piece of rock.”

Langevin says it’s important to first determine whether the underlying cause of pain is still there, and if it’s treatable. “It may well be that something is actually wrong with tissues, not just the nervous system.”

Her research is focused on the role of connective tissue in chronic pain and on treatments that use movement or manipulation to relieve it. At the Osher Center, patients may undergo yoga, acupuncture, or massage along with mindfulness-based therapies and more conventional treatments. “

The treatments are integrative. It’s not one approach,” Langevin says.

A teacher leads a yoga class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.