Improve Pain Tolerance After Athletic Injuries with Mindfulness

Improve Pain Tolerance After Athletic Injuries with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Meditation is not something that only benefits yogis. Meditation gives athletes the ability to stay calm in the eye of the storm, it improves your ability to ignore distractions, and it has a powerful impact on the state of your nervous systems. All of these elements are significant to recovery time.” – Jennifer Houghton

 

Athletic performance requires the harmony of mind and body. Excellence is in part physical and in part psychological. That is why an entire profession of Sports Psychology has developed. “In sport psychology, competitive athletes are taught psychological strategies to better cope with a number of demanding challenges related to psychological functioning.” They use a number of techniques to enhance performance including mindfulness training. It has been shown to improve attention and concentration and emotion regulation and reduces anxiety and worry and rumination, and the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, mindfulness training has been employed by athletes and even by entire teams to enhance their performance.

 

Athletes, however, often get injured. It has been shown that mindfulness can help with pain management. But, it is not known if mindfulness training can help in dealing with and recovering from severe athletic injuries. In today’s Research News article “Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in Increasing Pain Tolerance and Improving the Mental Health of Injured Athletes.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00722/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_650705_69_Psycho_20180524_arts_A ), Mohammed and colleagues examined the ability of a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program to reduce the physical and psychological effects of severe athletic injuries.

 

They recruited university athletes who had severe injuries that kept them from participating in their sport for at least 3 months. All athletes received usual care consisting of the standard physiotherapy treatments throughout the study. They were randomly assigned to receive either an additional 8-week program of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). They met once a week for 90 minutes and were asked to practice at home for 20 minutes per day. MBSR contains meditation, yoga and body scan practices. For this study the practices were adapted to the physical needs and capabilities of the injured athletes. All athletes were measured before and after training for pain tolerance with a cold pressor test, rated their own levels of pain, and completed measures of mindfulness, positive and negative emotions, anxiety, and depression.

 

They found that following training the athletes receiving MBSR training had a significantly greater level of pain tolerance, and mindfulness compared to baseline and the control group. Both groups had significant improvements in mood, especially significant reductions in anxiety and stress. This is a small study and it needs to be repeated with larger groups and an active control condition. But, the results indicate that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) improves pain tolerance and mindfulness in injured athletes. It has been previously demonstrated that mindfulness training reduces pain perception in general. The present study suggests that it also does so for severely injured athletes. This may be important for the athlete’s recovery from their injuries.

 

It will be interesting to see if the heightened mindfulness produces improved athletic performance when the athletes recover and return to their respective sporting activities. It has been shown that mindfulness training improves athletic performance. But it is not known whether it is effective with athletes returning to competition after serious injury.

 

So, improve pain tolerance after athletic injuries with mindfulness.

 

Athletes that fall into reactive habits are being mindful when under stress.  They are at the mercy of these destructive habits.  Becoming mindful creates a pause between the stimulus that occurs and the athletes reaction to the event.” – Robert Andrews

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Mohammed WA, Pappous A and Sharma D (2018) Effect of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in Increasing Pain Tolerance and Improving the Mental Health of Injured Athletes. Front. Psychol. 9:722. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00722

 

Abstract

Literature indicates that injured athletes face both physical and psychological distress after they have been injured. In this study, a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was utilised as an intervention for use during the period of recovery with injured athletes and, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study using MBSR as an intervention for this purpose.

Objective: The aim of this research was to investigate the role of MBSR practise in reducing the perception of pain and decreasing anxiety/stress, as well as increasing pain tolerance and mindfulness. An additional aim was to increase positive mood and decrease negative mood in injured athletes.

Methods: The participants comprised of twenty athletes (male = 14; female = 6; age range = 21–36 years) who had severe injuries, preventing their participation in sport for more than 3 months. Prior to their injury, the participants had trained regularly with their University teams and participated in official university championships. Both groups followed their normal physiotherapy treatment, but in addition, the intervention group practised mindfulness meditation for 8 weeks (one 90-min session/week). A Cold Pressor Test (CPT) was used to assess pain tolerance. In contrast, the perception of pain was measured using a Visual Analogue Scale. Other measurements used were the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), and Profile of Mood States (POMS).

Results: Our results demonstrated an increase in pain tolerance for the intervention group and an increase in mindful awareness for injured athletes. Moreover, our findings observed a promising change in positive mood for both groups. Regarding the Stress/Anxiety scores, our findings showed a notable decrease across sessions; however, no significant changes were observed in other main and interaction effects in both groups.

Conclusion: Injured athletes can benefit from using mindfulness as part of the sport rehabilitation process to increase their pain tolerance and awareness. Further research is required to assess whether increasing pain tolerance could help in the therapeutic process.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00722/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_650705_69_Psycho_20180524_arts_A

Mindfulness is Associated with Improved Athletic Psychology in Elite Athletes

Mindfulness is Associated with Improved Athletic Psychology in Elite Athletes

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Meditation is becoming popular for many reasons, especially related to health. Athletes are also taking up the practice more and more because research has shown that meditation can be used as a tool to manage pain, decrease anxiety and improve focus.” – Kris Eiring

 

Athletic performance requires the harmony of mind and body. Excellence is in part physical and in part psychological. Without inheriting an athletic body and without many hours of training the individual will never reach an elite level. But, once there, the difference between winning and losing is psychological. That is why an entire profession of Sports Psychology has developed. “In sport psychology, competitive athletes are taught psychological strategies to better cope with a number of demanding challenges related to psychological functioning.” They use a number of techniques to enhance performance including anxiety or energy management, attention and concentration control (focusing), communication, goal setting, imagery, visualization, mental practice, self-talk, controlling negative emotions, team building, time management/organization.

 

Mindfulness training has been shown to enhance a number of the characteristics that are taught by Sports Psychologists. Mindfulness training improves attention and concentration and emotion regulation and reduces anxiety and worry and rumination, and the physiological and psychological responses to stress. As a result, mindfulness training, including meditation and yoga practices, have been employed by elite athletes and even by entire teams to enhance their performance. There have been, however, very few empirical tests of the efficacy of mindfulness training to enhance elite athletes’ performance or the mechanism of action.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Mechanisms in Sports: Mediating Effects of Rumination and Emotion Regulation on Sport-Specific Coping.” (See summary below), Josefsson and colleagues examined the relationship of mindfulness effects on rumination and emotion regulation on athletic performance. They recruited a large sample of elite High School athletes from a variety of sports and requested that they complete measures of mindfulness, rumination, emotion regulation, and athletic coping skills. They analyzed the obtained data with correlation techniques and a sophisticated statistical technique called path analysis.

 

They found that, as has previous studies, that the higher the levels of mindfulness of the athletes the lower the levels of rumination and the higher the levels of emotion regulation. They also found with path analysis that mindfulness levels were associated with better athletic coping skills in two ways, directly and indirectly through mindfulness’ relationships with rumination and emotion regulation. In other words, the higher the levels of mindfulness the better the athletic coping skills. This occurred by a direct relationship of mindfulness on athletic coping skills and also due to the mindfulness’ association with lower rumination and improved emotion regulation and their relationships with improved athletic coping skills.

 

This study was correlational and causation cannot be determined. But the results suggest that mindfulness is an important asset for the elite athlete. They further suggest that mindfulness may enhance athletic performance by improving the athletes ability to cope with their emotions and by decreasing worry and rumination. It remains for future studies to actively train athletes in mindfulness skills and determine if emotion regulation, rumination, athletic coping skills, and athletic performance are enhanced. Regardless, it is clear that mindfulness skills help and athlete cope with the psychological demands of elite athletic performance.

 

“The application of mindfulness to sport performance has recently become a popular research endeavor. By enhancing current moment awareness, a critical component of peak sport performance, some research has suggested that mindfulness exercises can help to generate “flow”, or a state of complete focus on the task or event at hand . . . mindfulness-based interventions for sports are effective because they help athletes direct their attention to the current athletic task, while minimizing external distractions.” – Mitch Plemmons

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Torbjörn Josefsson, Andreas Ivarsson, Magnus Lindwall, Henrik Gustafsson, Andreas Stenling, Jan Böröy, Emil Mattsson, Jakob Carnebratt, Simon Sevholt, Emil Falkevik. Mindfulness Mechanisms in Sports: Mediating Effects of Rumination and Emotion Regulation on Sport-Specific Coping. Mindfulness (2017). doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0711-4

 

Abstract

The main objective of the project was to examine a proposed theoretical model of mindfulness mechanisms in sports. We conducted two studies (the first study using a cross-sectional design and the second a longitudinal design) to investigate if rumination and emotion regulation mediate the relation between dispositional mindfulness and sport-specific coping. Two hundred and forty-two young elite athletes, drawn from various sports, were recruited for the cross-sectional study. For the longitudinal study, 65 elite athletes were recruited. All analyses were performed using Bayesian statistics. The path analyses showed credible indirect effects of dispositional mindfulness on coping via rumination and emotion regulation in both the cross-sectional study and the longitudinal study. Additionally, the results in both studies showed credible direct effects of dispositional mindfulness on rumination and emotion regulation. Further, credible direct effects of emotion regulation as well as rumination on coping were also found in both studies. Our findings support the theoretical model, indicating that rumination and emotion regulation function as essential mechanisms in the relation between dispositional mindfulness and sport-specific coping skills. Increased dispositional mindfulness in competitive athletes (i.e. by practicing mindfulness) may lead to reductions in rumination, as well as an improved capacity to regulate negative emotions. By doing so, athletes may improve their sport-related coping skills, and thereby enhance athletic performance.