Integrative Health and Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Chronic Pain Management: Understanding Factors of Engagement
Unpacking the Study: Integrative Health and Chronic Pain
A study published in the Journal of Pain Research explored factors associated with engagement in integrative health and medicine (IHM) and nonpharmacologic modalities versus opioids for adults with chronic pain. Using data from the 2019 National Health Interview Survey, the study examined sociodemographic, pain, and mental health predictors of engagement in IHM and nonpharmacologic modalities versus opioids. The findings highlighted several vital aspects that influence engagement in IHM, such as metropolitan residency, higher family income, higher education levels, increased number of pain locations, and increased frequency of pain limiting life/work activities. In contrast, factors such as older age, male sex, non-Hispanic Black/African American race/ethnicity, and daily opioid use were associated with reduced engagement in IHM.
Understanding Integrative Health
Integrative health refers to an approach that combines conventional medicine with evidence-based complementary and alternative therapies to treat the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. This approach emphasizes lifestyle factors such as nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep patterns, and social connections. Practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation promote the integration of mind, body, and breath. Holistic treatments work by addressing the interconnectedness of various aspects of an individual’s health and well-being, aiming to restore equilibrium and promote overall health. Practitioners specializing in holistic treatment work collaboratively with individuals, considering their unique needs and circumstances.
Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Pain Management
Another practical approach for clinicians in chronic pain management is the integration of medical treatment, physical therapy, lifestyle interventions, and behavioral or mental health therapy. This multidisciplinary approach is more effective in chronic pain management, as it addresses the misconceptions about pain management and emphasizes the importance of non-pharmacologic approaches.
Rise of Complementary Health Approaches
Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed a significant increase in the use of complementary health approaches (CHAs) for pain management from 2002 to 2022. The CHAs examined in the study include acupuncture, chiropractic care, guided imagery, massage, naturopathy, yoga, and meditation. The overall use of these CHAs increased from 19.2 percent in 2002 to 36.7 percent in 2022. Clinical trials suggesting their effectiveness, incorporation into pain management guidelines, and the need to reduce opioid use are factors driving the increased use of CHAs.
Recommendations and Future Implications
Despite the increasing engagement in IHM and nonpharmacologic modalities, there are still barriers to accessing these treatment options. The study recommends further research to identify these barriers, with the goal of informing policy change and increasing utilization of these modalities among populations with chronic pain. It’s essential for healthcare providers, policymakers, and patients to acknowledge and address these barriers to improve chronic pain management strategies and enhance patients’ quality of life.