During these last couple of years, we have seen an unprecedented increase in the awareness of the ill effects of overuse and abuse of opioids with an ever-increasing emphasis on doctors to prescribe these powerful drugs much more carefully and judiciously. But, there also has been a fear that this push will lead to undertreatment of pain and unnecessary suffering of pain patients. The good news is that many research studies have shown that non-opioid therapies are often as effective, if not more so, than opioids in treatment of chronic pain. This fact was further highlighted by a recent scientific and systematic analysis of the effectiveness of Mond Body Therapies for pain management.
The review included 60 studies involving over 6000 patients suffering from all sorts of pain (burn pain, cancer related and other types of chronic pain) who were treated with different types of modalities such as Meditation, Hypnosis, Therapeutic Suggestion, and CBT were especially effective in providing pain relief. In addition, the study found that 3 of these therapies (Meditation, Hypnosis, and CBT) had the greatest benefit in helping patients cut down their opioid use. Also, these mind-body therapies were also beneficial for decreasing cravings for opioids and their misuse.
One should also note that in addition to above-noted benefits, mind-body therapies have another huge advantage over traditional pain management with medications; that is, they are free of any adverse effects. If there is one thing, we have learned very clearly from the opioid epidemic it is that promising and promoted treatments sometimes have disastrous effects in the long run!!
One major hurdle in utilizing mind-body therapies for treatment of pain is that very few doctors who treat majority of patients for pain (primary care physicians, physical medicine/rehab specialists and anesthesiologists) have any formal training in the use of such therapies. As such, majority of patients needing treatment for chronic pain never really are treated by healthcare professionals who are familiar with mind-body therapies, let alone knowing how to utilize these in their practice. The physicians most likely to be familiar with and or trained in the use of such therapies happen to be psychiatrists and this is the reason why they need to be more involved in the treatment of patients with chronic pain.