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Can Mindfulness Help You Manage Chronic Pain?

Cognitive behavioral therapy and mindulness meditation can help people manage chronic pain without adding additional drugs.
Can Mindfulness Help You Manage Chronic Pain?
Back pain bad back

People in chronic pain often feel abandoned by the medical profession,  especially as physicians are cutting back on prescribing opioids. They may be interested in some nondrug approaches that could help them manage chronic pain better.

Mindfulness May Help People Manage Chronic Pain:

A study suggests that mindfulness meditation can help people cope much better with their pain (Khoo et al, Evidence Based Mental Health
, Jan. 31, 2019). The researchers reviewed 13 trials of cognitive behavioral therapy compared to control. They also analyzed seven studies of mindfulness-based stress reduction for pain management. In addition, one trial compared mindfulness-based stress reduction to cognitive behavioral therapy as well as to control. Altogether, more than 1,900 volunteers participated in these clinical trials.

How Well Do These Non-Drug Approaches Work to Manage Chronic Pain?

The investigators found that both techniques had comparable effects on reducing pain intensity and psychological distress. Participants also experienced similar improvement in physical functioning with cognitive-behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction. The authors suggest that they need further research to help determine who might benefit most from one or the other of these treatments.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Can Help People Manage Chronic Pain:

An earlier study indicated that cognitive behavioral therapy can help alleviate chronic low back pain (The Lancet, Feb. 26, 2010). The researchers randomly assigned 700 people with bothersome low back pain to standard care or to standard care plus cognitive behavioral therapy. The group on cognitive behavioral therapy started with one individual session. Six group sessions followed.

After a year, 60 percent of those who had gotten the counseling had recovered. This compares to 30 percent in the group receiving only ordinary care, such as advice and pain medicine. The investigators judged cognitive behavioral therapy to be cost-effective. That makes it one of the few treatments to manage chronic pain in the lower back.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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