Mindfulness May Help Treat Some Spine Pain

Category: Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 20, 2016

mindfulness spine pain

Back pain is triggered by your brain’s response to firing neurons, so in essence, back pain really is “all in your head,” but a new study suggests that we may be able to train our brain to ignore some painful sensations in the spine.

Mindfulness Study

Although the study is relatively small in its size – comprising of only 342 adults – it still stands as one of the largest of its kind in studying the effects of mindfulness and pain expression. For the study, the researchers split a group of 342 adults with self-reported low back pain into one of three groups:

  • Group 1 received mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for two hours once a week over the course of eight weeks. They also participated in guided meditation, group yoga, and “body scanning,” which involves categorizing how each body part feels at a certain moment.
  • Group 2 received cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for two hours once a week. This techniques works to raise self-awareness of negative and false thoughts so that you can approach situations with more clarity and effectiveness.
  • Group 3 did not receive any special treatment; they were to continue current management strategies.

Spine Study Results

Participants were asked to stay in their program for a period of six months. At the conclusion of six months, researchers assessed each patient. According to their findings, taking a mindful approach to spine pain may be the optimal approach. Researchers stated that 61 percent of people in Group 1 reported significantly less low-back pain than when the study began. Most notably, pain was reduced in everyday tasks, like getting in and out of a car or when preparing a meal. 58 percent of people in the CBT group reported lower levels of pain, while 44 percent of individuals in Group 3 reported less pain at the end of the study.

“We tend to view pain as largely physical when, in fact, the mind plays a much more important role than we realize,” says Daniel Cherkin, senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, adding that “Both (MBSR and CBT) allowed participants to view pain through a different lens than being something physical.”

This isn’t to say that you can just think away your pain, but when paired with other activities, like exercise and targeted physical therapy, mindfulness can help quell some of your pain. It’s worth further investigation, as mindfulness doesn’t offer any negative side effects, like painkillers and opioids for spine pain sometimes do.

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