Mindfulness Meditation and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intervention Reduces Pain Severity and Sensitivity in Opioid-Treated Chronic Low Back Pain: Pilot Findings from a Randomized Controlled Trial

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Abstract

Objective. To assess benefits of mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based intervention for opioid-treated chronic low back pain (CLBP).

Design. 26-week parallel-arm pilot randomized controlled trial (Intervention and Usual Care versus Usual Care alone).

Setting. Outpatient.

Subjects. Adults with CLBP, prescribed ≥30 mg/day of morphine-equivalent dose (MED) for at least 3 months.

Methods. The intervention comprised eight weekly group sessions (meditation and CLBP-specific CBT components) and 30 minutes/day, 6 days/week of at-home practice. Outcome measures were collected at baseline, 8, and 26 weeks: primary-pain severity (Brief Pain Inventory) and function/disability (Oswestry Disability Index); secondary-pain acceptance, opioid dose, pain sensitivity to thermal stimuli, and serum pain-sensitive biomarkers (Interferon-γ; Tumor Necrosis Factor-α; Interleukins 1ß and 6; C-reactive Protein).

Results. Thirty-five (21 experimental, 14 control) participants were enrolled and completed the study. They were 51.8 ± 9.7 years old, 80% female, with severe CLBP-related disability (66.7 ± 11.4), moderate pain severity (5.8 ± 1.4), and taking 148.3 ± 129.2 mg/day of MED. Results of the intention-to-treat analysis showed that, compared with controls, the meditation-CBT group reduced pain severity ratings during the study (P = 0.045), with between-group difference in score change reaching 1 point at 26 weeks (95% Confidence Interval: 0.2,1.9; Cohen’s d = 0.86), and decreased pain sensitivity to thermal stimuli (P < 0.05), without adverse events. Exploratory analyses suggested a relationship between the extent of meditation practice and the magnitude of intervention benefits.

Conclusions. Meditation-CBT intervention reduced pain severity and sensitivity to experimental thermal pain stimuli in patients with opioid-treated CLBP.

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