Hot Topic: Mind-Body Therapies Dramatically Reduce Pain in Hospital Patients

Jackie Werner Hot Topics in Research, Neurology, Psychology and Psychiatry

Randomized Controlled Trial of Brief Mindfulness Training and Hypnotic Suggestion for Acute Pain Relief in the Hospital Setting

Garland EL, Baker AK, Larsen P, et al. Randomized controlled trial of brief mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion for acute pain relief in the hospital setting. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-017-4116-9.

Background

Medical management of acute pain among hospital inpatients may be enhanced by mind-body interventions.

Objective

We hypothesized that a single, scripted session of mindfulness training focused on acceptance of pain or hypnotic suggestion focused on changing pain sensations through imagery would significantly reduce acute pain intensity and unpleasantness compared to a psychoeducation pain coping control. We also hypothesized that mindfulness and suggestion would produce significant improvements in secondary outcomes including relaxation, pleasant body sensations, anxiety, and desire for opioids, compared to the control condition.

Methods

This three-arm, parallel-group randomized controlled trial conducted at a university-based hospital examined the acute effects of 15-min psychosocial interventions (mindfulness, hypnotic suggestion, psychoeducation) on adult inpatients reporting “intolerable pain” or “inadequate pain control.” Participants (N = 244) were assigned to one of three intervention conditions: mindfulness (n = 86), suggestion (n = 73), or psychoeducation (n = 85).

Key Results

Participants in the mind-body interventions reported significantly lower baseline-adjusted pain intensity post-intervention than those assigned to psychoeducation (p < 0.001, percentage pain reduction: mindfulness = 23%, suggestion = 29%, education = 9%), and lower baseline-adjusted pain unpleasantness (p < 0.001). Intervention conditions differed significantly with regard to relaxation (p < 0.001), pleasurable body sensations (p = 0.001), and desire for opioids (p = 0.015), but all three interventions were associated with a significant reduction in anxiety (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

Brief, single-session mind-body interventions delivered by hospital social workers led to clinically significant improvements in pain and related outcomes, suggesting that such interventions may be useful adjuncts to medical pain management.