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Fight Pain With Relaxation, Panel Says

Behavioral and relaxation techniques should be a routine part of medical care for people with chronic pain and insomnia, says a federally convened panel of medical experts.

The 12-person panel reviewed the latest findings from hundreds of studies looking at the health benefits of techniques that include breathing exercises, refocusing attention away from the problem, and medication. They agreed the techniques tended to reduce stress and increase health.

“There is little question that the time to integrate these techniques into the treatment of chronic conditions is now,” said Richard Friedman, who chaired a committee of behavioral medicine experts brought in to review the field for the panel. Friedman is a psychologist with joint appointments at Harvard University’s Mind/Body Medical Institute and the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The panel, put together last year by the National Institutes of Health, did not say exactly how to integrate the techniques into medical care for chronic pain and insomnia, or what behavioral tools might work better for certain medical conditions. But they did encourage medical insurers to pay for these treatments as part of the patient’s overall medical care.

The recommendations were to be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.