According to the CDC, 50 million Americans live with chronic pain and it’s the leading cause of long-term disability in the nation.

Sanford Health recently introduced a new workshop that is aimed specifically for people living with chronic pain.

The 6-week workshop focuses on chronic pain management, decision making, problem-solving, and action-planning. It’s been making a big difference in people’s lives in our area since 2018.

“Better Choices, Better Health” Leader Bonita Hegel says, “I always feel that if there is one little thing that can make your life better then go for it.”

Bonita Hegel became one of the “Better Choices, Better Health” leaders. She herself had been experiencing chronic pain and looking for a way to treat it without the use of any medications.

“You know if this can help with the many aspects that pain causes. It’s not just the pain itself but the pain can affect your entire life,” says Hegel.

The workshop is not just for people suffering from chronic pain, but also for those who are caring for someone with chronic pain. All meant to improve your quality of life without the use of opioids.

“Better Choices, Better Health,” Coordinator-Bismarck Linae Bieber says, “We offer things like healthier eating, physical activity, better breathing, how to use your mind to manage symptoms.”

“It’s put together in such a beautiful way that you can actually say ‘Oh yeah I never thought about it that way.’ And you started putting those things into practice and it’s a great help. It really is,” adds “Better Choices, Better Health” Leader Michael Horan.

The program is led by people who have experienced chronic pain themselves.

“None of us operate as clinicians when we are teaching. We are peers with chronic conditions and that is a requirement. You have to have a chronic condition in order to teach the class. You are not allowed to just come in and be a professional. You have to be a peer that is there just like everyone else,” says Bieber.

Bieber tells me that research shows that getting the support and feedback from others dealing with these similar issues will give you the confidence to do what you need to do to manage your health and show you can make an impact.

“It’s pretty normal to feel down,” says Bieber. “But I have watched people come in and they just feel so terrible that first night and over the 6 week period of time it’s like their shoulders go back. They are brighter, they are more engaged with people and it’s really just a chance to be in a room with people that completely understand what it’s like to have chronic pain.”

“It’s just made me very aware of what causes my pain and the steps I can take to lessen it before it gets too bad,” says Hegel.

This new workshop was made by the request of pain and medical providers right here in town. Since their first workshop opened in 2018 the program started with 7 sessions but has now grown to 14 sessions this year due to such a positive response.

For more information on how to sign up or become a volunteer, click here.