It has become quite evident that new, more effective, and less dangerous methods of pain management are greatly needed. In order to treat patients with unmanageable pain and not subject them to potentially addictive and dangerous opioids, researchers have begun to look at many different alternatives. Scientists at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City have made some headway.

After conducting a year-long study, they found that after just fifteen minutes of mindfulness training, or hypnotic suggestion, a type of guided meditation, participants felt relief from pain they had previously categorized as “unmanageable”. Mindfulness training uses yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques to reduce stress and problems an individual may be feeling. This method of therapy has gained popularity in the last few years due to its effectiveness at helping with anxiety, addiction, depression and anger.

Mindfulness training was only one aspect of the study. In order to determine if and what other techniques could be employed to reduce chronic or acute pain, researchers gathered 244 participants who reported “unmanageable” pain levels. The participants were split into three groups. Each group received fifteen minutes of either mindfulness training, hypnotic suggestion or pain coping education.

Participants who were in the mindfulness group or the hypnotic group had generally positive experiences, while participants in the pain coping education group had less relief from their pain. However, this information highlights the therapeutic benefits of mind-body therapies, which is the category that mindfulness treatment and hypnotic suggestion fall. The results of the study were published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

“About a third of the study participants receiving one of the two mind-body therapies achieved close to a 30 percent reduction in pain intensity. This clinically significant level of pain relief is roughly equivalent to the pain relief produced by 5 milligrams of oxycodone,” explained Eric Garland, lead author of the study. “Given our nation’s current opioid epidemic, the implications of this study are potentially huge. These brief mind-body therapies could be cost-effectively and feasibly integrated into standard medical care as useful adjuncts to pain management.”

Researchers of the study are anxious to get the results into the hands of doctors across the country. Implementing these alternatives to painkiller medications could produce a decline in the rapidly growing painkiller epidemic.