Meditation Dramatically Reduced Patient Pain

meditationChronic pain affects millions of Americans. Left untreated, one’s quality of life can be severely diminished. In the United States, doctors treating chronic pain almost always turn to prescription opioids for pain management. While there is little question as to whether drugs like oxycodone are effective, the price of pain relief often leads to dependence, addiction and overdose.

The United States has been in the grips of an opioid epidemic for over a decade, a crisis driven primarily by prescription opioids. Government crackdowns and the tightening of prescribing restrictions have resulted in a number of prescription painkiller addicts turning to heroin to fill the gap. Heroin is cheaper and stronger than the majority of prescription opioids, and arguably more deadly for the fact that users are not always aware of what they are using.

Pain Management Alternatives

It may be harder to acquire opioid medications, but that does not mean that they are not being prescribed at alarming rates – still contributing to the problem. It is crucial that pain management experts turn to alternative forms of treatment, methods that do not involve dangerous narcotics.

New research suggests that meditation may be an effective alternative to opioids for treating pain, Medical Daily reports. A research team from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that meditation dramatically reduced patient pain, without the assistance of their body’s “pain-blocking process and opioid receptors.” The research was published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Meditation On Pain

The study involved 78 volunteers who were injected with either a saline placebo solution or naloxone, according to the article. The participants were separated in four groups; each group had a different variation of treatment, such as:

  • The first group received naloxone and meditated.
  • The second practiced meditation without naloxone.
  • The third group meditated and had a saline placebo.
  • The fourth group received the placebo and didn’t meditate.

The volunteers in the meditation groups saw pain reductions by over 20 percent, the article reports. However, the participants who did not meditate saw an increase in pain.

“Our finding was surprising and could be important for the millions of chronic pain sufferers who are seeking a fast-acting, non-opiate-based therapy to alleviate their pain,” said Dr. Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in a statement. “Our team has demonstrated across four separate studies that meditation, after a short training period, can reduce experimentally induced pain. And now this study shows that meditation doesn’t work through the body’s opioid system.”

About Holistic Treatment

We, too, understand the importance of using a holistic treatment approach which includes meditation. Prayer or relaxation exercises are proven to lower anxiety and reduce tension by increasing an individual’s spiritual awareness and sense of wellbeing. When volatile emotions are managed, there is less chance of relapse or binging. Over time, a meditation practice can be a long-term tool for achieving and maintaining sobriety and finding joy in life.

Treating Neuropathic Pain With Prescription Opioids

neuropathic-painWhile prescription opioids are highly addictive and have led to an epidemic in the United States, there is no question prescription opioids are great for treating pain. When people go to a hospital with a minor injury they might receive Tylenol 3 (codeine) or Vicodin (hydrocodone), if a patient is in need of surgery they are given something a lot stronger, such as morphine or fentanyl. People who are living with chronic pain are often prescribed monthly supplies of opioids and are at a heightened risk of developing a dependency to the drugs which can lead to addiction.

The treatment of chronic pain over the last 15 years played a large part in creating the opioid epidemic that we face today. This is a fact which suggests that physicians need to adopt different prescribing practices, and look to alternative forms of pain management treatment. Opioids have long been the go-to treatment for all forms of pain, but it turns out that treating certain types of pain with opioids may counter health improvements.

The Nerve of Prescribing Opioids

The American Chronic Pain Association states that neuropathic pain often involves nerve fiber damage which sends the wrong signals to other pain centers. Neuropathic pain can be difficult to live with, diminishing one’s quality of life. So it is not all that surprising those doctors will prescribe opioids for neuropathic pain. However, new research suggests that patients prescribed opioids for neuropathic pain experienced no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients treated with alternative therapies, Medical Daily reports. The research was published in the journal Pain Medicine.

“Opioids can help people with severe pain be more comfortable, but if they are not also facilitating improved function, the impact of these medications on quality of life should be questioned,” said Geoff Bostick, lead author of the study.

Researchers analyzed data from 789 patients, some of the participants were using opioids to treat the neuropathic pain. The participants provided self-reported baseline measures of function before the study, and then again after six and twelve months of treatment, according to the article. The patients using opioids for neuropathic pain saw no improvements in physical functioning, compared to patients using other therapies.

Hindering Improvement

If using prescription opioids during the healing process does not improve physical function, it begs the question of whether or not they should always be used. Bostick points out that improving movement and function may be more important than pain relief. If we consider all the risks of using opioids, it is hard not to agree with him.

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