Can Mindfulness Help Me With Pain?
Updated: Jan 2
What Is Mindfulness?
You may have noticed that you’ve been seeing more magazines about Mindfulness at the checkout line at the grocery store over the past few years and have wondered what it’s all about. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism, but it has been secularized and integrated into behavioral and mental health practices in the form of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program created by John Kabat-Zinn. As it has grown in popularity over the years, the term mindfulness has become synonymous in reducing what we traditionally think about stress. It has gained notoriety as it may be a cost-effective way to treat stress and many other conditions. Mindfulness meditation can help patients handle and direct their attention away from chronic stress. Moreover, its benefits also are evident through the patient's heightened connection to the world and those around them.
Many tenets define Mindfulness, which can be challenging to communicate with someone who has not experienced it for themselves. Mindfulness is the art of learning to cultivate a state of awareness that is centered around the present moment but doesn’t seek to describe or assess experiences. The practice seeks to train the mind not to get caught up in the rush of thoughts or emotions one experiences throughout the day. By training the mind to focus on solely the breath, it centers the patient on the here and now. Practicing Mindfulness on a regular basis can bring a myriad of benefits for both the practitioner and those around them.
In the MBSR program, this is accomplished over 8-10 weeks with various guided physical and mental activities by a certified practitioner every week along with additional plus homework. The goal of the program is to ultimately teach individuals how to use Mindfulness to improve their quality of life independently. Patients soon see the benefits and rewards of mindfulness practice in familial relationships, self-awareness, and overall connection to the present world around them.
What Does the Research Say About Mindfulness for Managing Physical Pain?
Studies have linked Mindfulness to be a viable treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health ailments. Further research is showing some promise for it to manage various types of chronic pain conditions (i.e. fibromyalgia). Many studies to date have shown that while objective measurements of pain levels in chronic pain patients do not improve with Mindfulness, the ability to cope and function do. These results are congruent with the aim of Mindfulness, which is not to take the pain away. Instead, Mindfulness trains the patient how to live and exist with their chronic ailments.
Most of us know pain as a simple concept. Still, it’s genuinely a sophisticated experience that our brain processes both unconsciously and consciously. Mindfulness can help us improve the way we manage aspects of the conscious experience of pain. Despite that, there has been some inconsistent evidence that shows Mindfulness may also be able to reduce objective measures of pain. Mindfulness gives one the ability to consciously focus the mind on specific things. With enough deliberate practice, one can divert attention activity, and focus away from painful areas of the body has been shown to help with lasting comfort.
You may be wondering how Mindfulness may help with your low back pain. The results for Mindfulness have been very mixed and limited in how it benefits those with chronic low back pain. Many of the studies evaluated vary widely in their populations and designs. Like other forms of chronic pain, it may improve pain acceptance and function rather than reducing quantitative measurements of pain. Chronic pain, especially in a patient's lower back, often can be caused by many different things and might require complicated or expensive solutions. This can often frustrate or scare the patient who wants to live a life of comfort, free from chronic pain.
Many doctors nowadays are quick to prescribe addictive prescriptions to handle a patient's chronic pains. These solutions can be highly addictive, expensive, or leave the patient feeling foggy in their mind and body. Mindfulness is inexpensive, safe, and requires no special equipment or invasive prescription. It may be an excellent complement to other treatments you may be receiving for your low back pain.
Listen to My Interview with Dr. Brenda Butterfield About Mindfulness
In this interview, my friend Dr. Brenda Butterfield, Licensed Mental Health Therapist discusses:
What Mindfulness is
How she made it a key part of her practice
What makes it different from another well known type of treatment
Her experience with MBSR on her patients
Dr. Butterfield runs an MBSR program on the Eastside in Redmond at her office on a regular basis. Visit her website to learn more about Mindfulness and how you can participate. To learn more about how chiropractic care in Kirkland can help with your pain, come see our team at Integrity Chiropractic.
Liye Zou, Albert Yeung, Xinfeng Quan, Sean David Boyden, Huiru Wang. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Mindfulness-Based (Baduanjin) Exercise for Alleviating Musculoskeletal Pain and Improving Sleep Quality in People with Chronic Diseases. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol 15, Iss 2, p 206 (2018).
Yan Song, Haixia Lu, Honglin Chen, Guiling Geng, Jing Wang. Mindfulness intervention in the management of chronic pain and psychological comorbidity: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Nursing Sciences, Vol 1, Iss 2, Pp 215-223 (2014).
Sangram G Patil. Effectiveness of mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) in the management of chronic low back pain. Indian Journal of Anaesthesia, Vol 53, Iss 2, Pp 158-163 (2009).
Cramer Holger, Haller Heidemarie, Lauche Romy, Dobos Gustav. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for low back pain. A systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Vol 12, Iss 1, p 162 (2012).
Anheyer D, Haller H, Barth J, Lauche R, Dobos G, Cramer H. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Treating Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals Of Internal Medicine. 2017;166(11):799-807.
Chou R, Deyo R, Friedly J, et al. Nonpharmacologic Therapies for Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review for an American College of Physicians Clinical Practice Guideline. Annals Of Internal Medicine. 2017;166(7):493-505.
Khusid MA, Vythilingam M. The Emerging Role of Mindfulness Meditation as Effective Self-Management Strategy, Part 2: Clinical Implications for Chronic Pain, Substance Misuse, and Insomnia. Military medicine. 2016;(9):969.
Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Annals of internal medicine. 2017;(7):514.
Elena Bilevicius, Tiffany A. Kolesar, Jennifer Kornelsen. Altered Neural Activity Associated with Mindfulness during Nociception: A Systematic Review of Functional MRI. Brain Sciences, Vol 6, Iss 2, p 14 (2016).
Hajihasani A, Rouhani M, Salavati M, Hedayati R, Kahlaee AH. The Influence of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy on Pain, Quality of Life, and Depression in Patients Receiving Physical Therapy for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review. PM & R: The Journal Of Injury, Function, And Rehabilitation. September 2018.
Baez S, Hoch MC, Hoch JM. Review article (Meta-analysis): Evaluation of Cognitive Behavioral Interventions and Psychoeducation Implemented by Rehabilitation Specialists to Treat Fear-Avoidance Beliefs in Patients With Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. January 2017.
Vitaliy Bezsheiko. Mindfulness is effective in chronic pain. Psihosomatična Medicina ta Zagalʹna Praktika , Vol 2, Iss 3, p e020370 (2017).
Warhel Asim Mohammed, Athanasios Pappous, Dinkar Sharma. Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in Increasing Pain Tolerance and Improving the Mental Health of Injured Athletes. Frontiers in Psychology, Vol 9 (2018). 2018.
Henriksson J, Wasara E, Rönnlund M. Effects of Eight-Week-Web-Based Mindfulness Training on Pain Intensity, Pain Acceptance, and Life Satisfaction in Individuals With Chronic Pain. Psychological Reports. 2016;119(3):586-607.
Bawa FLM, Mercer SW, Atherton RJ, et al. Does mindfulness improve outcomes in patients with chronic pain? Systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal Of General Practice: The Journal Of The Royal College Of General Practitioners. 2015;65(635):e387-e400.
Reiner K, Tibi L, Lipsitz JD. Do Mindfulness-Based Interventions Reduce Pain Intensity? A Critical Review of the Literature. PAIN MEDICINE. 2013;(2):230.
Cherkin DC, Herman PM. Cognitive and Mind-Body Therapies for Chronic Low Back Pain and Neck Pain: Effectiveness and Value. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2018;178(4):556-557.