Wholistic approach helps reduce chronic pain, improve quality of life
Sometimes it takes two, and with chronic pain, a combined approach may be a winning combination. A recent study published in late June revealed that an integrative approach to treating chronic pain significantly reduces pain severity and also improves mood and quality of life.
The study, published in the Biomed Central Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, evaluated 252 patients at nine different clinical sites. The study tracked patients’ measures of pain, quality of life, mood, stress, sleep, fatigue, sense of control, overall well-being and work productivity.
Researchers found a reduction in pain severity of more than 20 percent and a drop in pain interference of nearly 30 percent in participants after 24 weeks of integrative care.
The study explains integrative medicine as providing patient-centered care that takes a wholistic or “whole systems” approach that addresses the physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental influences that impact a person’s health.
During the study, there was no standardized approach for all study participants. Instead, practitioners at each of the clinical sites created treatment plans on an individual basis for the chronic pain patients. All the clinical sites included integrative physicians, acupuncturists, mindfulness instructors and yoga instructors. Some sites also included massage therapists, manual medicine therapists, fitness/movement specialists, dietician/nutritionists, psychologists, healing touch therapists and other energy practitioners.
“Chronic pain is very difficult to treat,” said lead researcher Dr. Donald Abrams, in a statement. “While there have been some therapeutic advances, many patients with chronic pain become resistant to conventional medical treatments or suffer adverse effects from widely used prescription medications with high addictive potential,” he said.
“The results from this study are particularly encouraging as chronic pain is the number one condition for which patients seek care at integrative healthcare clinics,” added Abrams, a cancer and integrative medicine specialist at the University of California San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine.
A 2011 report entitled “Relieving Pain in America” published by the Institute of Medicine estimated that nearly 116 million American adults suffer from chronic pain, a number that surpasses those affected by heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. The report concluded that in terms of medical expenses and lost productivity, chronic pain costs between $560 billion and $635 billion each year.
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