Pain free without opioids: How one clinic helps patients break away from pain meds

April 2019

FPA_James_Fricton_300x199Jessica’s pain seemingly had no end in sight. Pain led to poor performance at work, which created stress and anxiety, which led to sleepless nights, which led to more pain. Years of medications did not break the cycle.

Today, she’s managing her pain on her own — without medications, surgery, or regular trips to a doctor. How?

Providers at the Minnesota Head and Neck Pain Clinic — a Fairview Health Network member — helped Jessica change her life. The clinic provides patients high-quality, effective care for head and neck disorders through a multispecialty, interdisciplinary approach designed to reduce pain and improve function for patients, by and large without the use of pain medications or invasive procedures.

“Few patients we see want medications, particularly opioids, or surgery,” says Dr. James Fricton, DDS, MS, co-founder of the clinic. “Patients want to be an active participant in their care and trained on what they can do to help themselves.”

The clinic’s approach, called transformative care, blends evidence-based treatments provided by an interdisciplinary team of providers with extensive training of patients in how to manage their own pain.

“Thirty years of NIH-funded research suggests transformative care simply works better to help patients reduce their pain long-term than the use of treatments such as medication or surgery alone,” says Fricton. “Our 40 years of experience working with patients like Jessica is further proof.”

With the help of a physician, physical therapist, and behavioral therapist, Jessica discovered the underlying causes of her pain and became empowered to address them. She put the training to good use: addressing her posture and the ergonomic conditions at work that led to repetitive strain, doing daily exercises to improve her range of motion, creating mindfulness techniques to combat stressors, and developing healthy habits to help eat and sleep better.

The training, Fricton says, is the key to sustainable outcomes all of their patients with chronic pain.

“We tell patients that we are happy to provide treatment for their pain, but that it’s more effective long-term to also train them to reduce the causes of their pain,” Fricton says. “When we ask them if they’re interested in learning how, patients nearly always say yes.”

Minnesota Head and Neck Pain Clinic can help your patients manage their pain conditions. Visit to learn more about the clinic, and click here to learn about referring patients.

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