The availability of safe and effective non-pharmacological therapies for pain is an important unmet medical need. Prayer may be considered as an effective adjunctive therapy for pain and this systematic review aims to clarify this association. Pertinent databases were searched for English language publications, dated 2000–2019. Inclusion criteria involved prayer as an on-site or personal intervention and at least one pre-specified pain-related outcome. We evaluated 411 abstracts. Nine studies met criteria. Active prayer to God emerged as a preferred beneficial intervention for religious patients undergoing surgery or a painful procedure. Prayer effect does not seem to be opioid mediated. Improved trial design will facilitate the study of prayer as an adjuvant therapy for pain.
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This paper was written in fulfillment of the Capstone requirement for the degree of Master of Science in Pain Research, Education and Policy (PREP) at Tufts University School of Medicine Public Health and Professional Degree Programs, Boston, MA. The authors wish to thank Dr. Ylisabyth (Libby) Bradshaw, DO, MS, Academic Advisor and Dr. Daniel Carr, Program Director at Tufts University School of Medicine PREP Program for their support of this project. Special thanks to Ms. Amy Lapidow, Librarian at the Hirsh Medical Library, Tufts University School of Medicine, for technical assistance, and Dr. Samantha Meints, Post-doctoral Fellow, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA for research consulting.
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Illueca, M., Doolittle, B.R. The Use of Prayer in the Management of Pain: A Systematic Review. J Relig Health 59, 681–699 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-019-00967-8