Doing Tai Chi and Qigong May Reduce Opiate Use for Pain Management
July 25, 2016 -
Opiates are no longer considered the best
strategy for the long-term management of chronic pain. Yet, physicians have made
many patients dependent on them, and these patients still request treatment.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies have been shown to be
effective, but are not widely available and are not often covered by insurance
or available to the medically underserved.
In a study by multiple organizations in New
England, including Dartmouth University School of Medicine, Group Medical Visits
(GMVs) provided education about non-pharmacological methods for pain management
and taught mindfulness techniques, movement, guided imagery, relaxation
training, yoga, qigong, and Tai Chi. Forty-two patients attending
GMVs for at least six months were matched prospectively with patients receiving
No one increased their dose of opiates.
Seventeen people reduced their dose, and seven people stopped opiates. On a
10-point scale of pain intensity, reductions in pain ratings achieved
statistical significance. The average reduction was 0.19. The primary symptom
improved on average by -0.42 on the My Medical Outcome Profile, 2nd version.
Improvement in the quality-of-life rating was statistically significant with a
change of -1.42. In conventional care, no patients reduced their opiate use, and
48.5% increased their dose over the two years of the project.
In conclusions, GMVs that incorporated CAM
therapies helped patients reduce opiate use. While some patients found other
physicians to give them the opiates they desired, those who persisted in an
environment of respect and acceptance significantly reduced opiate consumption
compared with patients in conventional care. While resistant to CAM therapies
initially, the majority of patients came to accept and to appreciate their
usefulness. GMVs were useful for incorporating non-reimbursed CAM therapies into
primary medical care.
Journal of alternative and complementary medicine
published this study in July, 2016.