Surprising Way to Manage Post-Surgery Pain, No Prescription Required

Cell phones may offer more than just a way to connect to people around the world. A study from researchers at Cornell University has linked use of the technology to pain reduction.

Cell phones may offer more than just a way to connect to people around the world. A study from researchers at Cornell University has linked use of the technology to pain reduction.

With opioid dependency continuing to be a problem, finding an alternative method for pain relief that does not involve addictive pills is imperative. Lead authors Jeff Hancock, Cornell professor in the Departments of Communication and Information Science, and Jamie Guillory, Cornell doctoral student, may have done just that with their study analyzing the role communication plays after a minor surgical procedure under local anesthesia.

“These findings suggest that the simple act of communicating with a companion or stranger provides an analgesic-sparing effect,” the authors wrote.

Hancock and Guillory, along with multiple physicians, used 98 patients that underwent surgeries in Montreal, Quebec between January and March 2012. The participants were divided into 4 groups, each of which received different treatments:

  • Standard mobile phone-free perioperative treatment
  • Used a mobile phone to play the game “Angry Birds” before and during their procedures
  • Used a mobile phone to text with a close friend or family member
  • Used a mobile phone to text with a research assistant for “getting to know you” type of conversations

The results verified that the one group that did not use a mobile phone at all were almost twice as likely to get pain relief medication as those in the “Angry Birds” group. When compared to the texting a companion and texting a research assistant groups, the non-phone patients were more than 4 and 6 times as likely to receive more analgesics, respectively.

“Our findings suggest that text messaging may be a more effective intervention that requires no specialized equipment or involvement from clinicians,” the study explained.

These findings, documented in Pain Medicine, show the importance of text-based social support — a technique that can be used in a variety of settings. So what is it about texting that helps a patient deal with pain?

“One possibility is that support activates psychosocial resources that change people’s appraisal of their ability to cope with stressors,” according to the report.

Recent extensive research revealed that patients fear becoming addicted to opioids, therefore, this discovery can help curb pain without the need for drugs.