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Harvard Health Blog
Mind-body therapies can reduce pain and opioid use
- By Balachundhar Subramaniam , MD, MPH, FASA, Contributor, and
- Preeti Upadhyay, MBBS, MPH, Contributor
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
In addition to the specific mind-body practices described in this article, we should keep in mind that empowering patients with significant chronic pain to employ cognitive and other mental coping strategies can always help them manage pain and reduce its negative impact on their quality of life. The concept that total lack of pain is always the desired outcome is one of the myths that encouraged the chronic prescription of ever increasing doses of opioid analgesics, and we all know where that concept led. We also know that the advice given to patients by the prescribing health caregiver can significantly influence the expectations and symptom reduction experienced by the patient. Pain has positive warning and protective functions, and is thus inevitable in life. How we experience and cope with pain involves both conscious and unconscious processes that can oftentimes be enhanced through non-pharmacological interventions.
It’s unfortunate that doctors do not take meditation, hypnosis, etc. seriously. I had been meditating for five years when I decided to start testing effectiveness by cutting back.
I had the same doctor 7 years. Every visit was ‘No, the RX doesn’t work, but what can I do?’ “What do you know about acupuncture, stem cells?” Reply: A shrug of the shoulders. No input. I was constantly talking about binaural beats, hypnosis, etc.
Three months ago, he decided to come whining about test values being too low. I did three hours of research on false positives, false negatives, and went to my appointment with five pages of notes. A month later, after a week of office staff lies, they told me he was refusing my refill. I dropped him as a doctor. Why spend another $500 in a month to be told he wasn’t refilling the other RX either?
Most important thing I learned is opioids INCREASE pain after you have abstained a few days. I feel sad that recent oral surgery has apparently taken me back to withdrawal day one. I tried to resist, and only had a few days’ worth. But the pain was horrendous.
Please, Everyone, Try meditation. It often takes a long time to get noticeable results. But if your doctor drops you, or takes away your RX, you will want tools of your own. Too many patients are being dropped. I left my doctor because I wanted to. I had been praying God would set me free for months. Some patients don’t have that choice.
Our mind have more abilities than what we think. It can help a lot in healing many disease and pain as well. Pain management can be done through mind yoga and meditation. Thank you very much for explaining this topic here. Very helpful for everyone.
Thank you for writing this article. MBTs are immensely helpful for improving day-to-day coping skills, so it makes sense that it can also help with dealing with pain management and the angst of getting off opioids. My father struggled with opioids for 10 years after surgery before the addiction and opioid abuse took his life at 55yrs. MBTs are another tool for people struggling with pain to find relief and a path to better health.
Thanks for your comment. Indeed MBT is useful in the exact situation you talked about.
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Pain Relief Without Drugs or Surgery
Pain relief takes many forms. This Special Health Report, Pain Relief Without Drugs or Surgery, looks beyond the standard approaches of drugs and surgery and explores alternate pain-relief strategies, from acupuncture and mind-body therapies to spinal manipulation, physical and occupational therapies, herbal remedies, mindfulness meditation, and music therapy among others. The report also provides specific treatments for 10 common pain conditions.
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