By Ed Coghlan
“Everyone in pain wants to get better.”
Those words from Dr. Ruben Kalra , a San Francisco Bay Area pain physician whose practice reaches about 25,000 patients every year.
He thinks practicing mindfulness needs to be a bigger part of how physicians treat chronic pain. He and some colleagues studied chronic pain patients and found that doctor-prescribed computerized mindfulness-based interventions (CMBI) earn both a high patient acceptance rate and interest in increasing the use of the therapies.
“Our patients—and for that matter all patients—are looking for alternatives when it comes to addressing their chronic pain,” Dr. Kalra told the National Pain Report. “They come to us for solutions, not pills.”
It is a false preconception among healthcare providers that patients with chronic pain are only interested in opiate therapy, which can be accompanied by significant side effects, increased pain sensitivity and even death.
The study results of 225 patients were presented at the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) annual conference by Dr. William Longton M.D. There was a modest correlation between the willingness to follow the doctor’s recommendation and increased age. Other key indicators of the study are:
- The CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) is advising doctors to pursue all treatment modalities possible before starting opiates
- Most patients with chronic pain do not only want pills
- Patients with chronic pain want to try mindfulness for their pain, if endorsed and prescribed by their doctor
- Brief mindfulness interventions resulted in pain relief for patients with chronic pain requiring opiates
- Computerized mindfulness-based interventions can be easily accessed and utilized have a high interest rate among patients with chronic pain.
Dr. Kalra and his colleagues have formed WellBrain, a physician created and managed company. Partnering with a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, the company developed a personalized mindfulness meditation program for the doctor’s office.
“More people than ever are learning about the healing properties of mindfulness,” says Sean Fargo, Chief Zen Officer for WellBrain. “People are recovering from a variety of medical conditions with prescribed mindfulness exercises, and they’re doing so on an increasing basis. This presents a new opportunity for healthcare clinics and hospitals to treat their patients without the risk of over-prescribing harmful opiates.”
How does it work?
Doctors and their staff receive a preloaded iPad with patented software that guides doctors and patients through HIPAA certified sections, including:
- Personalized mindfulness-based prescriptions based on brain health using machine-learning algorithms
- Mindfulness 101 training with instant real-time neurofeedback to help guide patients back into a meditative state (based on a proprietary algorithm developed in conjunction with Buddhist monks)
- A social community area for patients to give and receive support
- Milestone contests and badges
- Biofeedback compatibility (Heart Rate Variability, EEG)
Don’t think of this as an anti-opiate approach.
“Opiates help many of our patients,” Dr. Kalra said. “We believe it is best to try other modalities before we give opioids. Mindfulness works for many. We are excited to see more doctors start to use it in treating their patients’ pain.”