Study Finds Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Does Not Help Fibromyalgia

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • I've been hearing a lot lately about a technique called mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) that is said to help reduce pain and improve the quality of life for chronic pain patients through the use of mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga postures.  Now I'm all for any therapy that can help us gain better control of our pain without requiring us to put more drugs into our bodies, so I've been keeping an eye out for studies on MBSR and for people who have personally tried it. 

    Unfortunately, the most recent MBSR study did not have good news for fibromyalgia patients.  German researchers divided 177 women with FM into three groups.

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    • Group 1 went through an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program.
    • Group 2 received relaxation training and learned gentle stretching exercises. 
    • Group 3 was simply put on a waiting list for treatment. 

    All three groups completed a questionnaire that rated their health-related quality of life at the beginning of the study, at the end of the study and again two months later.  Although all three groups showed a slight improvement, there were no clinically significant differences between the groups.    

    My Thoughts...

    I was sorry to see that the MBSR group didn't have better results.  I didn't expect MBSR to eliminate their pain, but I had hoped it would at least result in some improvement in quality of life by perhaps helping them to respond differently to the pain.  

    One FM patient who has participated in an MBSR group commented on a Reuters article about this study.  She reported that MBSR had been extremely helpful for her in coping with the pain of FM by calming the heightened anxiety that comes from living with chronic pain.  This is more the type of result I would have expected from this study, but that's not what they found – at least not in this particular group of FM patients. 

    If you have tried MBSR, I'd love to hear about your experience and what it did or did not do for you.  Just click on “Comment” below to share.
    Schmidt S, et al. Treating fibromyalgia with mindfulness-based stress reduction: Results from a 3-armed randomized controlled trial. Pain. 2010 Dec 10. [Epub ahead of print]

    Norton, A. (2010, December 28). Mindfulness therapy no help in fibromyalgia trial. Reuters.


Published On: December 28, 2010