According to a study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine, mindfulness meditation can actually provide an alternative short-term treatment for chronic back pain. In a randomized clinical trial, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that a mind-body program could improve physical function in senior adults with chronic lower back pain, though that improvement doesn't last long.
While the short-term nature of the results may not seem groundbreaking, the study's researchers believe they have uncovered an important detail of the relationship between meditation and back pain. The two have already been linked as meditation is known to reduce stress, which is often a cause for chronic pain.
"Most people would think mindfulness meditation would help stress," the study's lead author Dr. Natalia Morone of the University of Pittsburgh told Reuters. "They would not typically think it could actually lead to reduced pain or lead them to have less pain interference during their day to day activities."
The study observed 282 adults over the age of 65 who suffer from chronic back pain, separating them into two groups: one that would complete a mind-body program focusing on mindfulness meditation and the other that underwent a traditional health education program. Participants in the mindfulness group were taught four different methods of meditation that heightened awareness of thoughts and sensations in different positions. The group was also instructed on how to stretch mindfully.
Both groups completed an eight-week program followed by monthly follow-up sessions. In the eighth week of the study, researchers found that the patients who participated in the meditation program showed significant improvement in short-term function, though that result wasn't sustained past that time period.
What the results say, according to the researchers, is that meditation can be a viable alternative to other short-term treatments for lower back pain. This option is especially important for senior adults who are concerned about adverse effects from medication or are physically unable to participate in other types of exercise-based treatments.
However, for long-term treatment plans, it's always best to consult with a professional. If you suffer from chronic back pain, schedule an appointment with a chiropractor today.