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Utah Study Finds Mental Ways To Ease Physical Pain

The study took place at University of Utah Hospital.

A Utah-based study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine this month shows that mental treatment for physical pain may be more effective than we believe. Conducted by the University of Utah’s Center on Mindfulness and Integrative Health Intervention Development, the study found significant reductions in pain using mindfulness or hypnotic interventions.

Dr. Eric Garland is the director of the center. The study was conducted at University of Utah Hospital

“This was a really, really simple yet really pragmatic study,” Garland said.  “What we did was we approached patients who were reporting that their pain was intolerable, unmanageable, for a whole range of issues: various diseases, injuries and surgeries causing pain.”

There were three types of intervention, including a control group.

“Patients who agreed were randomly assigned to receive either 15 minutes of a scripted mindfulness intervention, 15 minutes of a scripted hypnotic suggestion intervention, or 15 minutes of a pain education control,” he said. “We measured pain immediately before and immediately after the intervention.”

The group who received the mindfulness intervention had an average of 23 percent less pain. The hypnotic intervention group had a reduction of 29 percent. The control group had an average reduction of nine percent.

Excluding the control group, Garland said one third of patients had a pain reduction of more than 30  percent, which is considered clinically significant. The treatment had no side-effects, no potential for addiction, and was inexpensive and relatively easy to implement, even in a busy hospital environment.

“What it tells me, the take-home message is that these brief mind-body therapies really ought to be offered in a variety of standard healthcare settings,” he said. “It really shows that the integrative approach of treating both mind and body simultaneously can really bring relief to a lot of suffering people.”