Control Low Back Pain with Mindfulness  

“When I was able to concentrate I had a great experience. The only time I had a sensation is when I was concentrating on my lower back. I felt like something was happening to that section of my body and … the pain would disappear”


Low Back Pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and affects between 6% to 15% of the population. It is estimated, however, that 80% of the population will experience back pain sometime during their lives. There are varied treatments for low back pain including chiropractic care, acupuncture, biofeedback, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, massage, surgery, opiate pain killing drugs, steroid injections, and muscle relaxant drugs.


The therapies are sometimes effective particularly for acute back pain. But, for chronic conditions the treatments are less effective and often require continuing treatment for years. Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments for low back pain that are low cost and don’t have troublesome side effects. Mindfulness training has shown promise in the treatment of a variety of pain conditions (see links at the bottom). But, there is a need for testing with chronic low back pain patients.


In today’s Research News article “Effectiveness of mindfulness meditation on pain and quality of life of patients with chronic low back pain”

Banth and colleagues compared the meditation and body scan components of an 8-wk Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to medical treatment as usual for chronic low back pain in women. They found that treatment as usual had very little if any effect. But, the mindfulness treatment markedly reduced pain by the end of the 8-wk treatment period. In addition,, the pain was reduced further for the subsequent 4-wks to the point where the pain scores were nearly cut in half. They also observed a large improvement in both mental and physical quality of life. These are remarkable results and suggest that mindfulness training is a safe and effective treatment for chronic low back pain.


Pain usually has a physical cause but it is greatly affected by the psychological reaction to pain. Mindfulness training is thought to modify pain sensitivity by both affecting the psychological and physical aspects of pain. Mindfulness training appears to uncouple the pain from the emotions and thought process such as worry and rumination that accompany chronic pain. These psychological processes can have the effect of amplifying the perceived pain. So, uncoupling them from the pain can greatly reduce the perceived pain. In addition, mindfulness training appears to reduce the nervous systems response to painful stimuli by reducing the activity of the brain areas that normally respond to painful stimuli.


So practice mindfulness and control chronic pain.


“There is a way to work with all this, based on Buddhist meditative practices, which can liberate you, to a very large extent, from the experience of pain. Whether or not you can reduce the level of sensory pain, the affective and cognitive contributions to the pain— which make it much worse—usually) can be lessened. And then, very often, the sensory component of the pain changes as well.” – John Kabat-Zinn


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


MBSR is effective in reducing pain and headache pain

Teenage meditators have reduced pain sensitivity

Yoga reduces pain from arthritis


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