Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mindfulness Intervention Reduces Need for Pain Medication

The evidence for mindfulness as a clinically useful tool continues to grow.  A study just published by researchers at the University of Utah, Medical University of South Carolina, and UNC Chapel Hill supports the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention to help people experiencing chronic pain to reduce their levels of pain and need for opioid pain medication.  

Given the extent of prescription drug addiction and misuse, the potential benefits of non-medication based techniques for pain management are quite powerful.

The research study, published online by the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, found that the mindfulness intervention supported the brain's natural reward processing mechanism, reducing the need for addictive rewards supplied by misuse of prescription pain medication.  The intervention, named Mindfulness Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE), uses a technique called "mindful savoring."  

This involves "intentional deployment and maintenance of attention on the pleasant features of healthful and socially affiliative objects and events" as well as a cultivated awareness of positive emotional states -- without "clinging" to positive emotions.  

The MORE program supports attention to the temporary nature of emotional experiences as well as the fact that pain and suffering are ubiquitous.  With this approach, MORE encourages individuals to develop an appreciation for positive emotional experiences, even when they are fleeting.  This approach further promotes an acceptance of negative experiences such as pain.

Being more attuned to the natural rewards of positive events, the study authors conclude, supports the restoration of our ability to find reward, fulfillment, and meaning in everyday pleasures -- and this is what is needed for us to be able to create our own positive emotional experiences and become resilient to inevitable pain.

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