Peter Przekop, D.O., PH.D. - Top Doctors 2013
Director, Pain Management Track, Betty Ford Center; Faculty Member, Loma Linda University Medical School
Photography by Ethan Kaminsky
Dr. Peter Przekop is a trailblazer in the field of pain management. Invited to join the Betty Ford Center in 2008, he launched a groundbreaking, 45-day, medication-free program to help patients overcome chronic pain using his integrative neurocognitive enhancement program.
“Instead of where it hurts, I treat the person’s brain and mind, because in chronic pain, the only consistent thing that we’ve found is that the brain does not do the things it should,” Przekop says. “And people’s brains change over from engaging in life to constantly thinking about being in pain.
“There is a concept that we’ve known for about 10 years called neural plasticity,” he continues. “If areas of the brain don’t work as they should, and you stimulate them, they can change, enhance, and actually start to work as they should. That’s the stuff I do.”
Przekop holds a master’s in psychology, a Ph.D. in neuroscience, and has completed osteopathic medical school with a fellowship in addiction and pain. He is board certified in addiction medicine and neurology and a faculty member at Loma Linda Medical School. In 2008, he founded the Pediatric Chronic Pain and Headache Clinic at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital. (His wife is a pediatric neurologist at Loma Linda.)
His approach to pain management evolved from his own experiences. “I started doing Chinese kung fu when I was 6, and I studied it for 29 years,” Przekop says. “I had a bad case of AD/HD at that time. I couldn’t concentrate and couldn’t do well at school. Through the practice of using my mind to be able to take attention and put it on a certain thing, I learned a lot.”
At the Betty Ford Center, he says, “Patients come in, and just about all of them are on opiates and other things. Over the process of about 10 to 20 days, I start to get patients in groups and teach them things about the mind, the brain, and how it works. I teach them strategies of qigong movement, [and] I teach them ways that they can use their mind to get their thoughts calm and change the attention from being on pain all the time to being on life.”
He has seen success in about 300 patients he has seen at Betty Ford: “I’m doing a study now,” he says. “Overall, pain is reduced by about 95 percent. The changes in mood are dramatically reduced. The changes in the ability to handle stress go from almost nothing to very good. But more importantly, people get their spirit back, get their lives in place, engage with friends and family, and are much happier. The most important thing is that they leave with strategies” to cope with pain if it returns.
Outside of work, Przekop spends as much time as he can with his wife and two dogs, kicking back to the Rolling Stones, the Ramones, and Led Zeppelin. “I also rest and sleep as much as I can, because I use a lot of energy in my day.”