Chronic lower back pain is a serious problem for more than 65 million Americans who feel they’ve tried all potential remedies: shots, physical therapy, painkillers.
A new study wants to give new hope of relief in the form of meditation that gives the mind the power to control the levels of pain. Called mindfulness-based stress reduction, the technique is a mix of body awareness, meditation, and yoga.
The therapy focuses on increasing acceptance of one’s pain, whether it’s physical or emotional. The study found that people dealing with lower back pain who used the meditation technique had improved their function more than those who learned cognitive behavioral therapy.
While CBT has been shown to ease back pain, the meditation therapy yielded even better results. For the study, participants were randomly assigned to CBT or meditation; both groups received eight weekly two-hour sessions of training.
Six months after learning the respective techniques, those who practiced meditation could get out of a chair with more ease, as well as put on socks or go up the stairs. They were also less likely to be cranky or stay in bed because of pain. A year later, the improvements were still notable.
The study was conducted amid growing concerns over the drug abuse and surge of overdose deaths involving painkillers.
The new technique is “exciting,” according to Dr. Madhav Goyal of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, because it doesn’t require any pharmaceutical agents. In turn, this means the side effects of pharmaceutical agents are also ruled out of the equation.
Dr. Goyal, who wrote an accompanying piece for the study, said that while meditation as therapy might not be for everyone, it could help people with lower back pain who find yoga painful.
The study published in JAMA on Tuesday also impresses with its size; the results are based on data from 342 participants, ages 20 to 70.
The benefits of the mindfulness-based stress reduction were indeed limited, but according to lead author, Daniel Cherkin of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, that was hardly surprising.
“There are no panaceas here,” he explained. So far, no treatment for lower back pain was found to improve the situation for a lot of people.
Some treatments work for some people but not for others, which is why the wider the treatment offering, the more can be helped. The need for pain relief is tremendous, as undefined back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide.
Image Source: Being Therapy