Engage: Mindfulness good alternative for people who do not respond to CBT

Mindfulness could help people suffering from chronic pain, research suggests.

A review of existing studies found the technique can lessen the severity of pain, improve daily living, and reduce depression associated with the condition.

Chronic pain affects one in five adults and can be treated with cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT can include educating people about pain, teaching relaxation while helping sufferers to develop coping strategies.

But experts, including from the University of Ottawa in Canada, have found that mindfulness is just as good and could prove an alternative for those people who do not respond to CBT.

They looked at mindfulness in a group setting, with sessions focused on building awareness and acceptance of moment-to-moment experiences, including physical discomfort and difficult emotions.

Mindfulness can often involve sitting quietly and paying attention to thoughts, sounds and breathing, bringing the mind back to the present moment if it starts to wander.

Writing in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health, the experts examined data from 21 studies involving almost 2,000 people. Mindfulness treatments lasted for at least three months.

Most of the study participants were women generally aged between 35 and 65, who mostly suffered from musculoskeletal pain.

In nearly four out of 10 studies, people had suffered chronic pain for more than a decade.

The results showed that CBT and mindfulness were just as effective as each other, though the authors said more research is needed.

Both techniques significantly improved physical functioning and reduced pain and associated depression, compared with usual or no care.

The researchers concluded: “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.”

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