Mindfulness could be used to help People Suffering from Lower Back Pain

 12th May 2016

We previously covered the benefits of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for people suffering from relapses of depression.

Now, a study conducted by researchers at the Group Health Research Institute has discovered that an alternative type of mindfulness therapy called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has the potential to alleviate back pain.

The study compared MBSR with the ‘usual care’ administered for people suffering from back pain as well as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is a form of psychotherapy used to treat people living with a range of mental health conditions.

The main purpose of this study was to discover the optimal treatment out of the three, however, researchers also observed other outcomes such as depression, anxiety and the severity of the pain experienced amongst those tested.

The results highlighted how, after 12 months, 60.5% of those in the MBSR therapy group were able to experience a 30% improvement in back functionality compared to 58.7% and 48.6% in the CBT and ‘usual care’ groups respectively.

The type of back pain suffered by individuals in this study was categorised as ‘non-specific’, meaning there was no known cause of the pain (such as a slipped disc or cancer related damage) and the pain must have endured for at least 3 months for them to enter the study.

In addition, the participants (of which there were 342) were between the ages of 20 and 70 and had an average age of 49. As a result, the study shows the benefits of the therapy for the majority of adult ages, not just one specific group.

The findings show that, for general chronic back pain, MBSR and CBT are more effective forms of treatment than the usual care provided for patients in the same condition.

This is excellent news for any adults suffering from the aforementioned ‘non-specific’ back pain as there is now an additional form of treatment to consider which has proved to be successful.

In addition, the discovery of MBSR’s capabilities is welcomed as this type of therapy is far more accessible and easy to learn than CBT due to the limited availability of NHS-funded CBT treatment courses.

More on MBSR

MBSR, as the name implies, is a form of mindfulness therapy which combines several alternative techniques such as meditation, yoga and increased body awareness to help alleviate pain, stress and generally increase the wellbeing of those involved.

Unlike other purely meditative therapies, the inclusion of physical activity in this treatment allows for physical health benefits to be achieved including the improvements to back functionality outlined in this study.

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