Man with low back pain: Mindfulness based stress reduction for chronic low back pain

If you deal with chronic low back pain, you know how it can interfere with your life. When treatments don’t yield the results we hope for, the pain can remain a nuisance, day and night.

Chronic pain can lead to frustration, interfere with work and sleep, and even lead to depression. Understandably, patients suffering from chronic low back pain become desperate for relief from their suffering. They try medications with significant side effects and medical procedures that don’t always yield benefits. So it’s particularly good news when research shows a treatment works with minimal risk of negative side effects.

And that’s exactly what research published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) demonstrates about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for chronic low back pain.

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, is based on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is achieved through an awareness of the mind-body connection. Awareness allows us to sense both internal and external worlds. Relaxation through MBSR allows for better coping with stress. This can break the stress-pain cycle and begin to offer relief.

This approach to health combines science, medicine and psychology with meditative traditions. It was started at University of Massachusetts Medical Center in 1979 and now is used widely in medical institutions across the United States. Much research into MBSR is ongoing. Researchers want to determine its usefulness for a variety of medical problems and to better understand how it works.

What the Research Shows About MBSR

In the JAMA study, 342 adults with chronic low back pain were randomized to one of three treatment groups. The first received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or training to change thoughts and behaviors related to their pain. The second group participated in MBSR and yoga. The final group received usual care.

Interviewers, unaware of which treatments the patients had received, questioned them about their symptoms. After 26 weeks, 43.6 percent of MBSR patients and 44.9 percent of CBT patients reported meaningful improvement in pain bothersomeness. In the group receiving usual care, only 26.6 percent reported the same favorable results. These results persisted on follow-up at one year.

For patients who experience chronic low back pain, MBSR may offer improved outcomes in pain reduction and functional limitations that usual care doesn’t provide.


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