A recent study from UMass Medical School found that patients with chronic pain and depression who learn mindfulness techniques could reduce their pain drug use and made fewer emergency room visits.
The study is published in PLOS ONE. The lead author is integrative medicine expert Paula Gardiner, MD, MPH.
The team compared the effectiveness of an integrative medical group visit intervention with a control group in reducing pain and depressive symptoms for patients with chronic pain.
They tested 159 patients with chronic pain and depression symptoms receiving care at three health clinics.
Patients either joined the 10-week group intervention or visited their primary care provider once during the study period.
After each patient is seen individually, the entire group participates in educational activities designed to help reduce pain through mindfulness and yoga.
Participants also learn lifestyle practices such as healthy eating and movement that can help ameliorate chronic conditions. Participants agree to share health information in the group setting.
Patients completed surveys when the study began, nine weeks later and 21 weeks later. The research team analyzed the patients’ health records.
The team found overall, the integrative medical group visit intervention was not more effective than usual care at reducing depressive symptoms.
It was, however, found to reduce pain and depression in those that attended at least half the visits.
Compared with the controls, patients in the group intervention were less likely to use pain medication at the end of the study, showed a greater increase in mental health-related quality of life at the end of the study and had a greater decrease in the emergency department visits when weekly group visits ended.
The team says a lot of the care can happen within the supportive nature of a group with shared experiences.
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