Mindfulness meditation is a promising alternative to opioid medication for easing chronic pain, suggests data from 21 clinical trials involving nearly 2,000 people, published recently in Evidence Based Mental Health.
According to the findings, it can help lessen the severity and impact on daily life of chronic pain as well as the accompanying distress.

The review looked at the effects of two drug-free options for chronic pain: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and a program called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which combines meditation and gentle yoga postures.
In general, patients fared better with either therapy than with no treatment or with standard care, including pain medication, according to HealthDay in a media release.
Most of the study participants were women and aged between 35 and 65. The conditions causing them pain were largely musculoskeletal. In nearly four out of 10 studies, participants had endured their pain for more than a decade.
The review combined both direct and indirect evidence for the potential health impact of CBT compared with usual or no care; mindfulness compared with usual or no care; and mindfulness compared with CBT.
There were no important differences between either of the two techniques. Both significantly improved physical functioning and lessened pain severity and associated depression, compared with usual or no care, notes a separate news release from EurekAlert.
Only one of the 21 trials directly compared CBT with mindfulness, and only 12 trials were deemed to be of reasonable or good quality, the researchers caution.
While the analysis produced comparable results for both techniques, the statistical margin of error was wide, meaning that it is too early to tell which of CBT or mindfulness might be better for people with different types of pain and psychological symptoms, they point out. Further research is needed to plug this gap, they say.
But, they conclude, in the EurekAlert release, “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 since it shows promise in improving pain severity and reducing pain interference and psychological distress.”
[Source(s): BMJ, HealthDay, EurekAlert]