Living with Chronic Conditions? Program at Upstate May Help

Evidence-based programs at Upstate help patients manage their pain and chronic conditions

By Mary Beth Roach

Women suffer chronic pain more than men.

This is according to reports that have been cited in a variety of sources, including Women’s Health, Psychology Today and the Cleveland Clinic.

Those living with chronic health conditions not only contend with the physical pain, but they often experience emotional distress that can impact relationships. Research suggests that a combination of biological, psychological and social factors lead to women experiencing chronic pain more frequently, more and for longer durations. 

But Upstate University Medical offers several programs, called living healthy with a chronic condition, designed to help any Onondaga County resident, male or female, older than 18, manage their pain and chronic conditions, according to Lisa Vigliotti-Bane, coordinator of evidence-based programs at Upstate.

The programs include chronic disease self-management, peer support for adults with Type 2 diabetes and chronic pain self- management. They are free and peer-led. The curriculum was developed at Stanford University’s Patient Education Research Center. They are designed to serve as a complement to the healthcare being provided by a professional.

Over the six-week duration of these classes, participants receive booklets and CDs that will teach them techniques on how to deal with the pain, make decisions and make action plans, how to get through the day without getting overwhelmed, how to prepare healthy meals and how to handle a range of emotions, Vigliotti-Bane explained.

Another key tool in these workshops is teaching individuals how to communicate with family members and friends, doctors and providers. The classes are not only helpful to those suffering with chronic pain but to their caregivers as well. Participants with chronic pain usually have other chronic conditions also, and some with other chronic conditions may have pain as a secondary diagnosis, Vigliotti-Bane said. At the conclusion of the sessions, participants keep the booklet and the CD to use as reference as they move forward.

Another program offered through this series is “Tai Chi for Arthritis,” a 16-week session on the ancient Chinese practice that mixes slow motions with deep breathing. These classes are based on those offered at the Tai Chi Institute for Health, founded by Paul Lam, a world-renowned leader in the field of tai chi for health. Many experts agree that tai chi can benefit a person’s physical and mental well-being, improving coordination, flexibility and stamina, while also relieving anxiety.

The workshop teaches stepping movements, and helps to reduce the fear of falling, Vigliotti-Bane said.

“Participants gain confidence because they’re learning exercises to help them build up their strength and balance,” she explained.

Tai chi is also a great program for caregivers, she added.

“It helps them to lessen their stress, to focus, to take time for themselves,” she pointed out.

The classes are being offered in August, September and November. Those interested can register online at They will be online, but when they resume in person, Vigliotti-Bane said, these workshops are held for various organizations, centers and sites throughout Onondaga County. Those organizations interested in holding a workshop either online or in-person, can email Vigliotti-Bane at 

The Living Healthy with a Chronic Condition Programs and Tai Chi for Arthritis are made possible through a partnership with OASIS, Upstate Medical University, The Advocates for Upstate Medical University and the Onondaga County Department of Adult and Long Term Care Services.