Pain medicine specialists and anesthesiologists render more prescriptions for opioids than those in any other field of medicine. Many healthcare providers, however, suggest that using alternative approaches such as yoga acupuncture, and meditation can help to curb the opioid crisis.
The latest issue of the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia is devoted to the opioid epidemic, and in this edition, anesthesiologists and pain medicine doctors share evidence on potential holistic treatments that may mitigate opioid reliance and still effectively treat acute or chronic pain.
In one study, researchers from Harvard Medical school wrote that:
“Integrative medicine for pain can play a major role in reducing the frequency and amount of opioid usage.”
The researchers reviewed and analyzed evidence for integrative medicine therapies for pain, which may also be referred to alternative or complementary medicine. A total of 32 studies that examined seven different alternative therapies were analyzed, and acupuncture revealed the best evidence for effectiveness in mitigating pain.
In fact, multiple studies showed that the use of acupuncture reduced the opioid dose needed to manage pain following surgery, which also results in a mitigation of side effects related to opioids. Many other therapies revealed “positive preliminary evidence” as effective pain treatments, including mindfulness meditation, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, tai chi, and yoga.
Only a few studies, however, addressed whether the use of complementary therapies decreased the need for prescription medications overall, or particularly, opioids.
The authors conclude that in the midst of the opioid epidemic “many integrative medical therapies can be used as complements to mainstream medicine to address pain and reduce opioid abuse and addiction-related disease.”
Also, “The consensus and results of this review suggest that complementary health approaches can help to improve pain and reduce opioid use.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology