Mindful Meditation Technique May Help Alleviate Chronic Low Back Pain

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Researchers find it more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy and usual care.
Researchers find it more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy and usual care.

HealthDay News -- Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may be more effective than standard medical care for managing low back pain, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The findings were based on 342 adults with persistent low back pain with no clear cause for at least 3 months. The team randomly assigned each patient to 1 of 3 groups: Those in the MBSR group were supposed to attend 8 weekly sessions led by an instructor, and start a home practice of meditation and basic yoga poses. A second group was assigned to 8 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Patients in the third study group were told they could opt for any standard treatment they liked, including pain medication and physical therapy.

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Six months into the study, 60.5% of patients in the MBSR group showed meaningful improvement in their daily activities. That compared with 44.1% of patients who'd been free to opt for the other therapies. Patients who received CBT also fared better, with 57.7% showing significant improvements at 6 months. At 1 year, 68.6% of MBSR patients were reporting improvements in their daily activities, versus 58.8% of the CBT group and 48.6% of the standard care group. Reports of bothersome pain were also improved more in the MBSR group.

The focus of MBSR is on becoming aware of body sensations, thoughts, and emotions -- without trying to change them, explained study leader Daniel Cherkin, PhD Cherkin is a senior investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. "Neurological research has demonstrated how the body and mind are truly intertwined," Cherkin told HealthDay. The way the mind senses and responds to pain is critical, he said.

Reference

Cherkin D, Sherman K, Balderson B, et al. Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Usual Care on Back Pain and Functional Limitations in Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain. JAMA. 2016;315(12):1240. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.2323.

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