Article Summary: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Chronic Pain Conditions



Considering the prevalence of chronic pain in the general population, treatment teams everywhere have been grasping for effective treatment options. Empirical research has pointed towards mindfulness-based treatments with promising results.


Mind-body approaches have sought to improve the decreased health-related quality of life and high levels of psychological distress frequently associated with chronic pain conditions.  Such approaches as Mindfulness-Based stress reduction (MBSR), which was modeled after the curriculum Kabat-Zinn et al. developed in the 1980’s at the Stress Reduction Clinic of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, utilize techniques including: body scan, awareness of breathing, awareness of emotions, mindful yoga and walking, mindful eating, and mindful listening.  Past research has suggested significant improvement for chronic pain patients in a variety of symptoms following the implementation of MBSR interventions. However, there seems to be some inconsistency in these results as a factor of diagnostic heterogeneity versus homogeneity in past sample populations.


Investigators in the current study seek to compare the efficacy of MBSR among diagnostic subgroups of patients who received treatment in a diagnostically heterogeneous community population. Rosenzweig, Greeson, Reibel, et al. (2010) compared pre- and post-treatment measures of health-related quality of life (HRQoL), an index of bodily pain and pain-related limitations in daily functioning, and psychological distress. Data was collected over the course of seven years from 133 participants in the 8-week MBSR program. 84% of participants were women, 93% were Caucasian, and were divided into groups of patients diagnosed with arthritis, chronic back or neck pain, chronic headache/migraine, and patients with two or more of these diagnoses.  99 participants completed the program 41 of the 99 completed logs of recommended home meditation practice, which were incorporated into treatment mid-study.


Overall, all subgroups of participants reported an improvement in HRQoL subsequent to the MBSR program; however, there were differences between groups in the magnitude of this improvement.  The most significant average improvements in HRQoL as well as psychological distress were seen in participants diagnosed with arthritis. Medium to large effects were seen in participants with chronic neck or back pain in terms of physical and mental components of HRQoL. Participants with two or more chronic pain diagnoses show significant improvements in pain, pain-related functional limitations, overall HRQoL, and psychological distress. Those participants with chronic headache/migraine reported the smallest magnitude of improvement in HRQoL. Finally, data analysis of the information collected regarding recommended home meditation practice yielded strong associations between adherence to recommendations and greater home practice and improved outcomes in several areas, including: psychological distress, somatic symptoms, self-rated health, reduction in role limitations due to emotional problems, and social functioning.


Rosenzweig, A., Greeson, J. M., Reibel, D. K., Green, J. S., Jasser, S. A., & Beasley, D. (2010). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: Variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice.  Journal of Psychosomatic Research, (68), 29-36.


Cassandra A. Sturycz, B.A.
Psychology Practicum Student



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