Nonpharmacological interventions for acute pain management in patients with opioid abuse or opioid tolerance: a scoping review

Study of nonpharmacological opioid
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JBI Evid Synth. 2022 Jun 21. doi: 10.11124/JBIES-21-00169. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this scoping review was to identify and map the evidence on nonpharmacological interventions for acute pain management in patients with opioid tolerance and opioid abuse.

INTRODUCTION: Opioid therapy is the mainstay of pain management for adults experiencing moderate-to-severe acute pain. However, considering the known risks of opioid use and the growing number of patients with opioid tolerance or opioid abuse, nonpharmacological pain management interventions are of increasing interest to health care providers. Nonpharmacological techniques have shown potential in reducing postoperative pain, opioid consumption, stress, and anxiety.

INCLUSION CRITERIA: Eligible studies included participants in either inpatient and outpatient health care settings who were experiencing acute pain and a tolerance to opioid medications or opioid abuse. Studies that examined nonpharmacological interventions for treating acute pain in these patients were considered. Nonpharmacological interventions included, but were not limited to, acupuncture, electroacupuncture, massage, mindfulness, electroanalgesia, low-level light therapy, meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, and relaxation techniques.

METHODS: MEDLINE, CINAHL, Scopus, Embase, Europe PubMed Central, PsycINFO, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and the US National Library of Medicine ( were searched, as well as sources of unpublished studies on December 30, 2020. Only studies published in English were included, and there was no limit on date of publication. After screening the titles and abstracts of identified citations, two independent reviewers retrieved potentially relevant full-text studies and extracted data. Data are presented in diagrammatic format, and accompany the narrative synthesis.

RESULTS: Fourteen articles were included in the study, including 10 expert opinion papers or chapters, three case reports, and one implementation report. The most common setting was the perioperative setting, specifically orthopedic surgery. Nonpharmacological pain interventions identified in the literature included physical interventions such as acupuncture, physical therapy, therapeutic exercise, yoga, bracing, heat, cold, elevation, compression, chiropractic interventions, massage, manual therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, and pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. Behavioral and psychological modalities included positive affirmations, cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, distraction, guided imagery, meditation, biofeedback, relaxation, hypnosis, breathing exercises, and energy healing. Many expert opinions included only brief mentions or recommendations for nonpharmacological interventions without full explanations, evidence from the literature, or discussion of the level of support for the recommendation.

CONCLUSIONS: The findings of this review indicate that nonpharmacological interventions for patients with opioid tolerance or dependence include physical, psychological, and multimodal approaches. Nonpharmacological interventions in this scoping review were often presented as combined with opioid or non-opioid medications for a pain management regimen that is opioid-sparing, opioid-free, or drug-free. More primary research is needed on the nonpharmacological acute pain management of patients with opioid dependence and opioid tolerance.

PMID:36065876 | DOI:10.11124/JBIES-21-00169

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