The Power of Mindfulness Meditation – Helping to Ease the Effects of Chronic Conditions

Chronic health problems, by definition, don’t go away quickly (or at all). And when we can’t help patients heal, the next best thing might be helping them cope.

Enter mindfulness meditation.

Jillian Simpson, RN, and Tim Mapel, senior lecturer at New Zealand’s Eastern Institute of Technology, wanted to find out whether mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) could help patients cope with chronic disease.
Mindfulness and Chronic Illness
So they recruited 29 participants suffering from chronic conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, IBS, and arthritis. Researchers randomly assigned participants to one of two groups – a treatment group that received MBSR training over eight weeks or a waitlist control.

Researchers measured subjects’ health and well-being three times: before beginning mindfulness training, immediately following the training, and six months after the training concluded. They used seven survey measures, which included questions about mindfulness, general physical health, depression, pain, and quality of life.

The research garnered interesting and significant results.

First, the subjects’ mental health improved. On average, participants rated themselves as mildly depressed, anxious, and stressed before the training. After MBSR, these indicators fell into the normal range – and better yet, this remained the case even six months later.

Participants demonstrated significant improvements in physical health as well. Not only did they report less pain and discomfort following the treatment, but they also reported less rumination on their pain, and fewer feelings of helplessness.

If you’d like to know more, the full study was published in Volume 124 of The New Zealand Medical Journal.

This study was somewhat limited by its waitlist controlled design, and also by its small sample size, yet the findings are promising.

The results suggest that mindfulness can help people reduce their physical feelings of pain and discomfort by transforming their relationship to it – which makes getting mindfulness practice into your patients’ lives all the more worthwhile.

One thing to note, however, is that it doesn’t matter how great mindfulness is if you can’t get your patients to try it.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a practical and focused program that we think you should check out, just click here.

Have you ever helped a patient try mindfulness to ease their experience of a chronic condition? Please share your experience in the comments below.

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  5. Andrew Henry says:

    CHRONIC PAIN REDUCTION: In addition to being an EMDR counselor, and a DBT counselor, I teach people who suffer from chronic pain how to use Chi energy techniques to noticeably reduce pain. Many people who have learned my skills report having complete relief from chronic pain. I would like to be able to share this program with millions of people. I have created a Chi energy work pain reduction program that contains video and written material to teach these skills. The cost is $200 for the entire program. To order you can reach me by email at mc2004@cox.net Thank you, Andrew. Andrew E. Henry, MA, LPC. P.L.L.C.

  6. Karen Hall says:

    I highly recommend “Living Well with Pain & Illness” by Vidyamala Burch. The techniques she suggests, based on her own practices, are effective in developing mindfulness as well as strategies for managing your particular condition. She also has several great CD’s of guided mindfulness meditations that are just brilliant – I pass them on or give them as gifts all the time. Visit her website for information or to get these CD’s – http://breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/

    • Jo says:

      Absolutely love that book and her work – it’s available on my website and always recommending it too!

  7. Liz Dulaney says:

    As someone who also has been working with Mindfulness and my own chronic pain, I would like to recommend the vipassana meditation teacher and author, Shinzen Young’s book & c.d., “Natural Pain Relief:How to Soothe and Dissolve Pain with Mindfulness” , which has been helpful to me on my path.

  8. Jo says:

    I am a chronic illness/pain patient with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and fibromyalgia. an Although I am only learning mindfulness, as opposed to having mastered it (!), I can say that it is without doubt a healing tool for many patients who suffer with chronic illness. I run a support site and am learning myself (through your mindfulness experts/seminars and videos *thank you*), in order to help others with constant severe pain.

    Having a mindful awareness can be immensely healing as it is calming to find a place where you can cope; when in a ‘flare-up’ of pain, however, sometimes mindfulness techniques work, such as being in the moment and having an awareness of each and every sensation, other times all you can do is opt for distraction. As a life tool, I would always recommend it to everyone with chronic pain and/or illnesses such as fibro/CFS/ME/lupus and of course CRPS/RSD as it helps you cope. Great article as always, I really enjoy your website, thank you.

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