Featured Research and Projects

Stanford Pain Relief Innovations Lab Research

  • Comparative Effectiveness of Pain Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Chronic Pain Self-Management within the Context of Voluntary Opioid Reduction (The EMPOWER study), funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Read more here.

  • Comparative Effectiveness of Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. an Online Single-Session Pain Relief Skills Class for Chronic Pain (The PROGRESS study), national study funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute  Read more here.

  • Research and Mentoring in Innovative Patient Oriented Pain and Opioid Science, funded by the NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. This award includes a national study of brief and digital treatment for chronic pain relief and reducing health risks along the continuum of opioid use disorder. Read more here.

Stanford Pain Relief Innovations Lab Projects

Empowered Relief® is an evidence-based single-session pain class that rapidly equips individuals with pain management skills.

  • Single-session behavioral treatment for chronic low back pain (NCCIH R01AT008561)
    • This NIH-funded study is a 3-arm randomized controlled study that is testing the comparative efficacy of (1) "Empowered Relief," (2) 8-week cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain and (3) a single-session health education class.
    • Status: Close to enrollment; in final data collection
    • PIs: Beth Darnall, PhD and Sean Mackey, MD, PhD
    • Contact: Beth Darnall, PhD
  • Dr. Maisa Ziadni is principal investigator for a NIDA-funded RCT study examining whether Empowered Relief® impacts medication use in people with chronic pain.

McGill University collaborators are investigating Empowered Relief® in primary care clinics in Canada (grant from the Canadian Institute for Health Research).

  • In 2019, Empowered Relief® was cited by the U.S. Health and Human Services Interagency Task Force on Best Practices in Pain Management specifically as a promising treatment that can address the myriad barriers patients face in accessing evidence-based behavioral medicine.
  • Empowered Relief® is available in 7 languages and in 25 countries.


Funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute® (#1610-3700), EMPOWER is a multi-state pragmatic clinical trial voluntary patient-centered opioid tapering and behavioral pain treatment enrolling 1365 patients from 11 pain and primary care clinics in four Western states.

Within the context of voluntary prescription opioid tapering we are conducting a 3-arm RCT comparing (1) cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain, (2) the chronic pain self-management program, and (3) taper only on outcomes for opioid and pain reduction. This project includes innovative strategies to reduce patient fears and nocebo responses as a pathway to enhance patient engagement in this study.

  • Status: Enrollment Closed
  • Contact: Luzmercy Perez, EMPOWER core manager

My Surgical Success

My Surgical Success (MSS) is a brief digital behavioral perioperative pain medicine intervention developed at the Pain Relief Innovations Lab. MSS is delivered online, accessed on-demand, requires no therapist contact, and may be received before or after surgey.

An initial RCT conducted in women receiving breast cancer surgery revealed that women who engaged with MSS require 6.5 fewer days of post-surgical opioids compared to women assigned to non-skills-based digital health education.

Additional studies are being conducted in orthopedic trauma surgery at Stanford Hospital, Cleveland Clinic Spine Surgery, and Le Tour Hospitals in Switzerland.