Dr. Arthur Jenkins, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is conducting a clinical trial to see if meditation can help control the intense pain many patients suffer after spine surgery and reduce reliance on addictive narcotic pain medication. PHOTO: MATT KOZAR
Patients who have back surgery, a procedure that can cause severe pain for weeks, may have a new relief option beyond narcotics: meditation.
In a study at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, a neurosurgeon has teamed up with a geriatrician who leads meditation classes to test whether the technique can lessen pain in spine-surgery patients and reduce the need for opioid painkillers, which can be highly addictive. The randomized trial trains patients in a simple form of meditation and asks them to practice it starting two weeks before their surgery and for six weeks after, using audiotapes to guide them.
Dr. Jenkins says there has been growing pressure on doctors to reduce reliance on narcotic painkillers because of the dangers of addiction. He says he tried ways to reduce the use of drugs, including performing less-invasive surgeries with smaller incisions and shorter recovery times, but that isn’t always possible. Five years ago, Dr. Jenkins says he had an “epiphany” after reading a scientific study showing meditation could reduce physical pain.