A new study now finds that mindfulness meditation is a promising option for easing chronic pain. The research, based on pooled analysis of available data was published online in the journal Evidence Based Mental Health on Thursday.
The findings indicate that mindfulness meditation can lessen the severity and impact on daily life of chronic pain as well as the accompanying distress. The researchers say that the study is important because the most widely used psychological technique for treating chronic pain is cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation focusing on moment to moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the immediate environment. The stress reduction element aims to help those affected develop ways of coping more effectively with their pain.
The study, conducted with nearly 2,000 people found that there were no important differences between either of the two techniques. Both significantly improved physical functioning and lessened pain severity and associated depression, compared with usual or no care.
However, the researchers point that only one of the 21 trials directly compared CBT with mindfulness, and only 12 trials were deemed to be of reasonable or good quality.
While the analysis produced comparable results for both techniques, the statistical margin of error was wide which basically meant that it is too early to tell which of CBT or mindfulness might be better for people with different types of pain and psychological symptoms.
However, researchers conclude, “While CBT is considered to be the preferred psychological intervention of [chronic pain], not all patients with [it] experience a clinically significant treatment response. Although a number of recommendations have been proposed to improve CBT for patients with chronic pain, an additional solution may be to offer patients mindfulness based stress reduction since it shows promise in improving pain severity and reducing pain interference and psychological distress.”