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  • Writer's pictureDr. Frank Wen, DC

Can Mindfulness Help Me With Pain?

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

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.

Woman meditating

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.



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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.

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