New research appearing in the BMJ journal Evidence-Based Mental Health suggests that mindfulness could be a promising alternative to cognitive behavioral therapy for relieving some of the psychological and physical symptoms of chronic pain.
According to the most recent survey analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 50 million people in the United States — or 20 percent of the U.S. adult population — are living with chronic pain.
Individuals with chronic pain experience pain “most days or every day” for 6 months or more. Also, some of these people experience “high-impact” chronic pain, meaning that the pain severely interferes with their daily activities on most days.
Chronic pain can affect all aspects of a person’s well-being, and the psychologically distressing impact of the condition is significant. Currently, the psychological treatment for chronic pain that doctors most widely prescribe is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT helps people cope with chronic pain by encouraging a more flexible approach to daily challenges, both on a mental and behavioral level.
However, not every person is the same, so CBT does not help everyone living with chronic pain equally. New research evaluates the therapeutic potential of an alternative that practitioners call mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and compares its results with those of CBT.
Eve-Ling Khoo, of the Clinical Epidemiology department at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Ontario, Canada, is the first author of the paper.