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A Comparative Effectiveness Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation versus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Opioid-Treated Chronic Low Back Pain

University of Utah Principal Investigator (PI) / Project Lead:


Prime/Overall Principal Investigator (PI) / Project Lead:

Aleksandra Zgierska, MD, PhD, at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Funding Organization:

Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

RFP / FOA Number:

PCORI-RFA-2016 – Clinical Strategies for Managing and Reducing Long Term Opioid Use for Chronic Pain

Award Number:


Funding Period:

1/1/2017 – 4/30/2023

Total Funding:


Project Status:



Project Description:

PCORI has identified opioid use for chronic pain as an important research topic. Patients, clinicians, and others want to learn: How can patients lower their use of opioid medications while managing chronic pain, or eliminate use of these drugs altogether? To help answer this question, PCORI launched a funding initiative in 2016 on Clinical Strategies for Managing and Reducing Long Term Opioid Use for Chronic Pain. This research project is one of the studies PCORI awarded as part of this program.



One in four US adults have chronic low back pain, which is defined as any type of pain in the low back or radiating down to the legs (sciatica) that lasts for three or more months. Chronic low back pain can make it difficult to do daily activities such as walking, sitting, or climbing stairs. Doctors often cannot cure chronic low back pain, but they may prescribe an opioid medicine to help patients manage their pain. These medicines can have serious side effects, such as addiction to the medicine, depression, or even death from accidental overdose. Because of these side effects, patients, families, and doctors want to learn about other ways patients can safely manage chronic low back pain and reduce or eliminate the use of opioid medicines.

This study compares two ways to help patients reduce chronic low back pain and improve their quality of life:

  • Mindfulness meditation helps people train their minds to focus attention in a certain way to cope with and reduce negative reactions to pain.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychological therapy, helps people learn how to change their thoughts and feelings about pain and develop new ways to think and act when they are in pain.

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Last Updated: 4/25/24