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Qigong Helps Patients with Chronic Pain to Fight Substance Use Disorder

Patients with chronic pain (CP) and substance use disorder (SUD) are complex, not yet adequately described, and in need of comprehensive treatments that address both diseases concurrently. The Pain Free Kids Foundation in California carried out a project to (a) describe a cohort of CP patients who failed traditional treatment (mainly opioids) - then developed opioid use disorder (OUD) and other SUDs and (b) evaluate a comprehensive inpatient treatment program for these patients.

Patients were enrolled in an inpatient CP program. Treatment consisted of medical detoxification, group process/education, external and internal qigong, osteopathic manual medicine, and qigong-based mindfulness. Patients also received 20 h per week of 12-step recovery-based SUD treatment. Patients were evaluated at the beginning of treatment (first assessment, day 1-5 range) and at days 30 and 45. Assessments were: Beck Depression Inventory-II, Brief Pain Inventory, West Haven-Yale Multidimensional Pain Inventory (patient section), and McGill Pain Questionnaire. The Global Impression of Change Scale was administered at day 45. A mixed model analysis was used to evaluate treatment progress.

Demographic data revealed an older cohort with OUD, other SUDs, and multiple pain diagnoses who failed traditional treatment. Questionnaire evaluations were consistent and similar across all of the above measures: patients' scores showed marked, statistically significant improvements in depression, pain, and quality of life ratings. The most substantial improvements occurred between the first and second assessments.

The findings, published in the July, 2018 issue of Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, are sufficiently encouraging to warrant further evaluation of the protocol and to plan comparative studies.

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