Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion may drastically reduce severe pain in hospital patients, according to new research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
The University of Utah study is the first to investigate the effects of mindfulness and hypnosis on acute pain in the hospital setting.
After receiving a single 15-minute session of one of these mind-body therapies, patients at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City reported an immediate reduction in pain levels similar to what one might expect from an opioid painkiller.
“It was really exciting and quite amazing to see such dramatic results from a single mind-body session,” said Dr. Eric Garland, lead author of the study and director of the University of Utah’s Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development.
“Given our nation’s current opioid epidemic, the implications of this study are potentially huge. These brief mind-body therapies could be cost-effectively and feasibly integrated into standard medical care as useful adjuncts to pain management.”
The study involved 244 participants who had reported unmanageable pain due to an illness, disease or surgical procedure. Volunteers were randomly assigned to receive a brief, scripted session in one of three interventions: mindfulness, hypnotic suggestion or pain coping education. The interventions were provided by hospital social workers who had completed basic training in each type of treatment.
All three methods of intervention reduced patients’ anxiety and increased their feelings of relaxation; however, patients who participated in the hypnotic suggestion intervention and the mindfulness intervention experienced a 29 percent and 23 percent reduction in pain, respectively.
Patients receiving the two mind-body therapies also reported a significant decrease in their perceived need for opioid medication.
In contrast, patients who participated in the pain coping intervention experienced only a 9 percent reduction in pain.
“About a third of the study participants receiving one of the two mind-body therapies achieved close to a 30 percent reduction in pain intensity,” said Garland. “This clinically significant level of pain relief is roughly equivalent to the pain relief produced by 5 milligrams of oxycodone.”
Previous research by Garland suggests that multi-week mindfulness training programs may be an effective way to reduce chronic pain symptoms and decrease prescription opioid misuse. The new study added to Garland’s work by revealing the promise of brief mind-body therapies for people suffering from acute pain.
Garland and his interdisciplinary research team plan to further investigate mind-body therapies as non-opioid means of reducing pain by conducting a national replication study in a sample of thousands of patients in multiple hospitals around the United States.
Source: University of Utah