An integrative approach to treating chronic pain significantly reduced pain severity and improved mood and quality of life, according to a new study from the Bravewell Practice-based Research Network (BraveNet) published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Researchers found a reduction in pain severity of more than 20% and a drop in pain interference of nearly 30% in patients after 24 weeks of integrative care. Significant improvements in mood, stress, quality of life, fatigue, sleep, and well-being were also observed.
“Chronic pain is very difficult to treat,” said lead researcher Donald I. Abrams, MD, Director of the Integrative Oncology Research Program at the University of California San Francisco Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. “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. The results from this study are particularly encouraging, as chronic pain is the number 1 condition for which patients seek care at integrative health-care clinics.”
The prospective, observational study tracked patients’ measures of pain, quality of life, mood, stress, sleep, fatigue, sense of control, overall well-being, and work productivity in patients at nine BraveNet clinical sites over the course of 6 months. Patients were assessed at baseline and 6-, 12-, and 24-week visits.
No standardized prespecified clinical intervention for chronic pain was prescribed for study participants, in keeping with the integrative medicine philosophy of individualized, patient-centered care. Instead, practitioners at each of the network sites devised integrative treatment plans for participating chronic pain patients. All clinical sites included integrative physicians, acupuncturists, mindfulness instructors, and yoga instructors.
Of the 409 patients enrolled, 252 completed all study assessments during the 6-month study. At week 24, patients were receiving a wide range of modalities including acupuncture/Chinese medicine (51.9%), manipulation therapy (17.3%), mind/body techniques (7.7%), integrative medicine consult (7.7%), exercise (7.7%), yoga (1.9%), and alternative medical systems therapy (5.8%).
At 24 weeks, patients experienced a statistically significant decrease of 23% in mean pain severity scores and 28% in interference scores. The study found that patients’ quality of life improved, as well. At baseline, 52% of patients reported symptoms consistent with depression; this number dropped to 35% by week 24 of the study. Patients’ stress and fatigue decreased over time, and the participants’ sense of control increased.
The results of the study were consistent over the 24-week duration of the trial, suggesting the possibility of sustainable effects of the integrative interventions.
The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.