'Mindfulness' might help older adults with back pain

February 23, 2016 by Alan Mozes, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Mindful meditation may offer a measure of pain relief to seniors suffering from chronic lower back pain, new research suggests.

The study involved nearly 300 older adults with long-term lower back , half of whom were assigned to a two-month mindful meditation course.

"Mindfulness meditation is a method to learn how to be fully engaged in the present moment and not let the mind get so easily distracted," explained study lead author Dr. Natalia Morone. She is an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.

As patients practiced and tried to stay more focused on the , "participants found they experienced less pain," Morone said. They also saw short-term benefits in physical function, the study found.

More than half of adults older than 65 suffer from , most commonly in the back, according to background notes with the study. Because medication side effects are more common in old age, many doctors and patients seek nonpharmaceutical treatments, the researchers said.

"There is no magic bullet for pain," said Dr. John Mafi, an assistant professor of medicine with the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The closest we have is time, as 75 percent of pain will get better within two months, and 90 percent within three months. But simply telling patients to be patient can be frustrating," he said.

"So, although this is a small study, and the results are modest, it's still a first of its kind," said Mafi, who wasn't involved in the research. "That's exciting, because it offers some new movement in the realm of possible therapies. It's definitely worthy of continued study with a larger group of patients," he added.

For the study, published online Feb. 22 in JAMA Internal Medicine, 282 Pittsburgh residents over age 65 were recruited between 2011 and 2014. All had experienced at least three months of ongoing, "moderate" back pain that reduced their functioning. All were mindfulness first-timers.

About half were assigned to engage in weekly 90-minute sessions of mindful meditation for eight weeks. Sessions centered on "directed breathing" and greater thought- and sensation-awareness, designed to help them redirect their attention.

The others participated in an eight-week healthy aging education program, which touched on issues such as blood pressure management and stretching, though not pain management specifically.

At completion, both groups returned for six monthly one-hour "booster" sessions.

The result: While both groups improved in terms of mobility and pain, by some measures the mindfulness group improved significantly more.

For example, while 37 percent of the healthy living group said their back pain had eased after the two-month program, that figure was more than 80 percent among the mindfulness participants. Six months later, 42 percent of the healthy living group said their pain had at least "minimally" improved, compared with more than 76 percent among the meditation group, the findings showed.

With respect to "pain self-efficacy," a standard measurement of pain control, the meditation group was ahead at the two-month mark, but six months later that difference had all but disappeared, the investigators found.

Similarly, the greater physical function improvements observed in the mindfulness group at the program's end had also dropped off by the six-month mark, ultimately matching gains achieved by the nonmeditation group.

On that score, Morone theorized that the functional gains seen in both groups might be due to the emphasis both interventions placed on healthy living. She suggested that a program supplemented by exercise—such as brisk walking—might result in even greater and longer-lasting benefits.

Explore further: Mindfulness meditation trumps placebo in pain reduction

More information: Abstract
Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)
Editorial (subscription or payment may be required)

Related Stories

Mindfulness meditation trumps placebo in pain reduction

November 11, 2015
Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have found new evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces pain more effectively than placebo.

Pilot study shows meditation can help US veterans manage chronic pain

February 5, 2016
They return to the United States with multiple types of trauma, and suffer from one of the highest rates of chronic pain of any population in the United States. They are U.S. veterans. A major challenge for health care providers ...

Mindfulness program beneficial for chronic pain

April 9, 2015
(HealthDay)—A mindfulness program appears to be beneficial for patients with chronic pain, according to a study published in the April issue of Pain Medicine.

Neurobiological changes explain how mindfulness meditation improves health

February 4, 2016
Over the past decade, mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve a broad range of health and disease outcomes, such as slowing HIV progression and improving healthy aging. Yet, little is known about the brain changes ...

Can meditation decrease chronic pain?

October 23, 2013
A randomized controlled study published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics has investigated the role of a special form of meditation (mindfulness) in Chronic pain.

Mindfulness-based meditation helps teenagers with cancer

March 13, 2014
Mindfulness-based meditation could lessen some symptoms associated with cancer in teens, according to the results of a clinical trial intervention led by researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte-Justine ...

Recommended for you

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

July 21, 2017
A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact ...

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.