Long-lasting lower back pain responds surprisingly well to either mindfulness-based stress reduction or cognitive behavioral therapy. Such a mind-body approach is not usually considered a mainstream treatment for chronic back pain, but a new study in JAMA suggests that both deserve far greater respect than they usually get.
A Randomized Trial for People with Low Back Pain:
In this trial, 342 adults with chronic back pain were randomly assigned to get usual care, classes in mindfulness and meditation or cognitive behavioral therapy. The average length of time they had been suffering from low back pain was 7 years. Those who had 8 classes in either mind-body approach also got usual care, so they were not asked to do without medication or other medical attention.
Benefits of a Mind-Body Approach:
Both the mindfulness-based stress reduction approach and the cognitive behavioral therapy produced significant improvement. Roughly 44 percent of the participants in each group found that they were functioning better and their back pain was less bothersome at the end of six months. That compared to 26.6 percent of the people getting standard care.
Given the recent CDC guideline recommending against narcotic medications for chronic pain, it would seem that a mind-body approach is well worth considering.
Low back pain is not the only condition that may respond well to mindfulness meditation or cognitive behavior therapy. There is evidence that both these mind-body therapies may help insomnia, control blood sugar or make PTSD less overwhelming. They may even help a person avoid a repeat heart attack. You may need to search a bit to find a therapist skilled in a cognitive behavioral approach or a class in mindfulness-based stress reduction, as they are not always considered part of mainstream medicine.