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Nature exposure therapy for pediatric patients with chronic pain

News
Article

Authors of a study highlighted at the 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition suggest nature exposure therapy could be beneficial for pediatric with chronic pain

Nature exposure therapy for pediatric patients with chronic pain: © Smileus - stock.adobe.com

Nature exposure therapy for pediatric patients with chronic pain: © Smileus - stock.adobe.com

Takeaways

  • Nature exposure therapy shows promise as a non-pharmacological intervention for pediatric patients with chronic pain, according to a study presented at the 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition.
  • The study included a systematic review of controlled trials comparing nature exposure therapy to standard care for chronic pain patients, with a focus on quantitative pain intensity and pain-related anxiety scores.
  • Out of 6056 studies screened, 2 were included for meta-analysis, involving pediatric patients with cancer-related chronic pain and adults with fibromyalgia. Both groups showed significant reductions in pain intensity and anxiety with nature exposure therapy.
  • The meta-analysis indicated that participants in the nature exposure therapy group experienced a substantial mean reduction in pain intensity (-32.0%) and anxiety (-47.6%), highlighting the potential benefits of this therapy.
  • While the results suggest the promise of nature exposure therapy, the authors emphasize the need for more well-designed randomized controlled trials to further investigate its effectiveness, especially in the pediatric population, and highlight the value of incorporating nature spaces into communities for improved quality of life among individuals with chronic pain.

Nature exposure therapy can be possibly beneficial to pediatric patients with chronic pain, according to the authors of a study highlighted at the 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition.

“It is estimated that approximately 8% of children experience chronic pain worldwide,” the authors wrote. “Nature exposure therapy is a unique non-pharmacological intervention that has been explored in the rehabilitation of chronic pain.”

In the systemic review, the authors sought to observe the effects of nature exposure therapy on pain experience and psychosocial quality of life in pediatric patients with chronic pain.

The studies were identified through the MEDLINE, Embase, and CINAHL databases. The inclusion criteria encompassed controlled trials comparing nature exposure therapy to standard care for chronic pain patients, without limitations on the form of nature exposure intervention. Trials using secondary treatments, pharmacological interventions, or subjective pain measures as primary outcomes were excluded. The primary outcomes examined were quantitative pain intensity and pain-related anxiety scores.

Out of 6056 studies screened, 2 were included for meta-analysis, with 199 participants in total. These studies involved pediatric patients with cancer-related chronic pain and adults with fibromyalgia. The results were encouraging. The nature exposure therapy group in the pediatric trial demonstrated significant reductions in pain intensity (-37.6%) and anxiety (-67.8%) compared to the control group. Similarly, the trial with adults showed significant differences in pain intensity (-23.4%) and anxiety (-23.7%) between the therapy group and the control group.

The meta-analysis revealed that participants receiving nature exposure therapy experienced a mean pain intensity reduction of -32.0% compared to the control group's -1.47%. Anxiety reduction was even more pronounced, with a mean decrease of -47.6% in the therapy group compared to -1.8% in the control group. Notably, no significant difference in pain intensity and pain-related anxiety score reductions was observed between children and adult participants receiving nature exposure therapy.

The available data from these studies suggests that nature exposure therapy may be a promising intervention for pediatric patients with chronic pain and a low-risk approach in chronic pain rehabilitation. However, the evidence is limited, highlighting the need for more well-designed randomized controlled trials to investigate its effectiveness, especially in the pediatric population, noted the authors.

Additionally, this review underscores the potential value of incorporating nature spaces into communities and their significance in urban planning. Access to green spaces and natural environments can contribute to the overall well-being of individuals and should be considered in public health efforts aimed at improving the quality of life for those dealing with chronic pain, according to the authors.

Reference:

Lee MJ, Pradeep A, Lobner K, Badaki-Makun O. P2B346: Pediatric Patients with Chronic Pain and the Role of NatureExposure Therapy in Pain Rehabilitation. Poster. Presented at: 2023 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition.

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