Do you suffer from chronic pain? Complementary practices effectively manage the condition and reduce your need for opioids

According to the results of a study, complementary practices like meditation and mindful breathing can help individuals manage chronic pain. Researchers involved in the study added that these practices also helped minimize the need for medication like opioids, which are linked to addiction.

The study, which was conducted at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City, was titled “Complementary Practices as Alternatives to Pain: Effectiveness of a Pain Management Program for Patients in an Orthopedic Clinic.”

Relieving chronic pain with complementary practices

Maggie Wimmer, coordinator of Programs and Outcomes, Public and Patient Education at HSS, said that in the U.S., opioid misuse and addiction are a major public health issue. About 70 percent of individuals who use opioids on a long-term basis suffer from a musculoskeletal disorder, like arthritis or low back pain.

HSS set out to resolve this epidemic by implementing a Pain and Stress Management program in its orthopedic clinic. The program helped teach patients about complementary practices that are natural alternatives to medication.

The pilot program was launched in March 2017 at the hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center, which treats a low income, diverse group of individuals diagnosed with chronic musculoskeletal conditions. The program involved 122 volunteers who took part in a monthly workshop led by a meditation instructor and a social worker. The participants also joined a weekly meditation conference call.

During the program’s run, the volunteers were taught mindful breathing techniques and meditation to help them manage chronic pain and stress. (Related: Non-invasive treatment for low back pain: Controlled “core muscle release technique” provides effective relief.)

The researchers evaluated the program by surveying the participants after the monthly meetings. Using data gathered from the volunteers, the researchers determined the following factors:

  • The program’s effectiveness
  • The volunteers’ knowledge of complementary practices
  • How often the volunteers used the techniques
  • How the complementary practices helped the patients manage their chronic pain and stress.

According to the researchers, 98 percent of the patients strongly agreed or agreed that they were satisfied with the program. At least 95 percent of the volunteers reported that the program taught them about complementary treatments and how to use the techniques to manage pain and stress.

A whopping 93 percent of the patients said that they would recommend the program to others. One out of three volunteers said that they used the alternative techniques five or more times in the previous week instead of taking medication, while 11 percent used the techniques three to four times weekly instead of taking their medication.

Over 50 percent of the participants said that mindful breathing helped them manage their chronic pain and stress.

During the debriefings conducted by the social worker in the monthly sessions, participants reported that the complementary techniques helped reduce pain and stress. Several of the volunteers also “experienced improved daily function, calmness, and improved state of mind after using the techniques.”

The social worker shared that according to the participants, the techniques:

  • Helped them relax and feel less anxious.
  • Helped the patients “rebalance” themselves.
  • Made them realized that complementary practices and mindfulness can help manage pain.
  • Taught them how to breathe mindfully to relieve their pain.
  • Were helpful and calming.

Robyn Wiesel, associate director at Public and Patient Education at HSS, commented that the results of the program strongly suggest that complementary practices are effective and natural alternative approaches that can reduce pain and stress. They also helped improve self-management and general well-being among the patients.

Wiesel concluded that due to the success of the Pain and Stress Management program in the orthopedic clinic, HSS is expanding it to include patients in the HSS Rheumatology Clinic, where many patients use opioid medication to manage chronic pain.

If you suffer from chronic pain, try learning about complementary practices that can help you manage your condition. Other natural alternatives to medication, which is usually associated with many negative side effects, include acupuncture and yoga.

Visit to view more articles about meditation and other natural ways to manage chronic pain.

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