Mindfulness is a natural painkiller: Trendy meditation that focuses the mind on the present moment helps sufferers cope with their discomfort
- Mindfulness is just as effective as go-to cognitive behavioural therapy
- Both help improve ‘physical functioning’ and reduce the risk of depression
Mindfulness is a natural painkiller, research suggests.
A study found the trendy meditation – favoured by the likes of Hollywood’s resident ‘health guru’ Gwyneth Paltrow and pop sensation Katy Perry – is just as effective at easing discomfort as the go-to treatment cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Focusing the mind on the present moment is thought to help sufferers cope with their discomfort, which also improves their ‘physical functioning’ and reduces their risk of depression.
The research was carried out by The Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, and led by the biostatistician Dr Wei Cheng.
Mindfulness is just as effective as go-to cognitive behavioural therapy
Writing in the journal Evidence Based Mental Health, the scientists said: ‘While CBT is considered to be the preferred psychological intervention of [chronic pain], not all patients with [it] experience a clinically significant treatment response.
‘Although a number of recommendations have been proposed to improve CBT for patients with chronic pain, an additional solution may be to offer patients mindfulness based stress reduction.
‘[Mindfulness] shows promise in improving pain severity and reducing pain interference and psychological distress.’
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Chronic pain affects one in five adults and ‘may impact all dimensions of a person’s wellbeing’.
The most common psychological-based treatment is CBT, which aims to help people develop coping mechanisms for their discomfort.
CBT improves how you feel by changing how you think and act
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular forms of talk-psychotherapy in the US.
Pioneered in the 1960s by psychiatrist Dr Aaron Beck, CBT takes a problem-solving approach to mental health.
Most CBT treatments take course of a relatively short period of time: Weekly one-hour sessions, over the course of five to 10 months.
The theory behind the approach is that teaching patients to alter the behaviors, thoughts and beliefs underlying their feelings, rather than than their emotional responses to them.
CBT is meant to teach patients practical, applicable skills for re-framing and coping with negative emotions so that they can apply them for a lifetime without continuing to see a therapist long-term.
However, this does not work for all sufferers.
The researchers set out to determine CBT’s effectiveness compared to mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).
MBSR focuses on ‘building awareness and acceptance of moment-to-moment experiences including physical discomfort and difficult emotions’.
The scientists trawled through 21 studies with a total of nearly 2,000 chronic pain sufferers.
These patients – who were mainly women – underwent either CBT or MBSR for at least three months.
The participants were aged between 35 and 65, and largely suffered from musculoskeletal pain, such as back ache or arthritis.
In nearly four out of ten of the studies, the patients had endured their pain for more than a decade.
Results suggested mindfulness is just as effective as CBT when it comes to improving ‘physical functioning’.
Both are also equally as good at easing pain and reducing associated conditions, such as depression.
But the researchers stress only one of the studies directly compared CBT with MBSR.
The scientists also only judged 12 of the trials to be of ‘reasonable or good quality’.
Further research is therefore required to determine if CBT or mindfulness is better for people with different types of pain and psychological symptoms, they add.
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