Mindful meditation may offer a measure of pain relief to seniors suffering from chronic lower back pain, new research suggests.
The study involved nearly 300 older adults with long-term lower back pain, half of whom were assigned to a two-month mindful meditation course.
As patients practiced mindfulness meditation and tried to stay more focused on the present moment, “participants found they experienced less pain,” Dr. Morone, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. said. They also saw short-term benefits in physical function, the study found.
More than half of adults older than 65 suffer from chronic pain, most commonly in the back, according to background notes with the study. Because medication side effects are more common in old age, many doctors and patients seek nonpharmaceutical treatments, the researchers said.
For the study, published online Feb. 22 in JAMA Internal Medicine, 282 Pittsburgh residents over age 65 were recruited between 2011 and 2014. All had experienced at least three months of ongoing, “moderate” back pain that reduced their functioning. All were mindfulness first-timers.
About half were assigned to engage in weekly 90-minute sessions of mindful meditation for eight weeks. Sessions centered on “directed breathing” and greater thought- and sensation-awareness, designed to help them redirect their attention.
The others participated in an eight-week healthy aging education program, which touched on issues such as blood pressure management and stretching, though not pain management specifically.
At completion, both groups returned for six monthly one-hour “booster” sessions.
The result: While both groups improved in terms of mobility and pain, by some measures the mindfulness group improved significantly more.