Does meditation heal back pain?
Does meditation heal back pain?

Can meditation and yoga banish back pain? This belief might be just as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy - a common technique involving relaxation and education. In fact, both could be more effective than popping an over-the-counter pain reliever. 

Researchers at the Group Health Research Institute compared the two approaches in 229 adults between ages 20 and 70 with long-term low back pain. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

In the study, researchers assigned half of the volunteers to receive eight, weekly sessions of mindfulness-based stress reduction, involving meditation and yoga, and the other half to receive eight sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy, which focused on helping people change the way they think about pain. 

Another 113 adults continued their usual care, which often involved ibuprofen and other pain meds. By the end of the eight-week course, the researchers found that 47 per cent of people in the mindfulness group said their back pain was less disabling. A similar number of people, 52 per cent, in the cognitive behavioural therapy group reported less disabling pain. Both groups fared better than the group that did not change treatment, of whom only 35 per cent had experienced improvements. 

“Our results confirm what has already been found for (cognitive behavioural therapy), and we went beyond that to show this other mindfulness approach was equally effective for chronic back pain,” Daniel C Cherkin, lead author of the study said. Cognitive behavioural therapy is also recommended for patients with severe back and joint pains.


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