Approximately 100 million individuals in the United States suffer from chronic pain. Pain is prevalent in 52.9% of the older adult population ages 65 and older. Of the 52.9% experiencing pain, 30.3% were experiencing chronic back pain. Analgesics commonly cause severe adverse effects in older adults. Because of this prevalent drug therapy problem, nonpharmacologic treatments must often be utilized for effective management of chronic low back pain.
An experimental study was conducted among 282 patients with low chronic back pain 65 years or older. The goal of this study was to assess the effectiveness of a mind-body program at increasing function and reducing pain. The patients received an 8-week group program followed by 6 monthly sessions. The program was modeled on the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. This program took regular activities such as sitting, walking, and lying down and transformed then into meditation through breathing exercises and mindful awareness of thoughts and sensations. Compared with the control group, those receiving this mind-body treatment improved short-term function and long-term current and most severe pain.
The trial did not yield sustained results in treatment of lower chronic back pain, suggesting that future development of this intervention should focus on durability. This article was particularly of interest to me because it combined two of my interest in medicine with my interest in meditation. I often use meditation as a form of stress relief, and it is intriguing to see that meditation could also be used in pain management. Prescription pain medication is not the answer for every patient and it is very often over-prescribed. I believe that is important for pharmacists to be aware of other pain management methods and share these methods with their patients. Although I do not believe that meditation alone is the answer, I think that a combination of medication therapy and meditation could be a very effective treatment for a lot of patients suffering from chronic pain.
JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 22, 2016.