Back pain in seniors can be improved with mindful meditation. Lead author Dr. Natalia Morone said, “Mindfulness meditation is a method to learn how to be fully engaged in the present moment and not let the mind get so easily distracted.”
Patients practiced mindful meditation and focused on the present moment where, as Morone explained, “participants found they experienced less pain.” The patients also experienced short-term benefits in physical function.
Over half of seniors over the age of 65 experience chronic pain, most commonly in the back. Medication side effects increase with age and can lead to other health complications, thus non-pharmaceutical alternatives are necessary to minimize the effects of medications.
Dr. John Mafi, an assistant professor of medicine with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, added, “There is no magic bullet for pain. The closest we have is time, as 75 percent of pain will get better within two months, and 90 percent within three months. But simply telling patients to be patient can be frustrating.”
“So, although this is a small study, and the results are modest, it’s still a first of its kind. That’s exciting, because it offers some new movement in the realm of possible therapies. It’s definitely worthy of continued study with a larger group of patients,” said Mafi.
Seniors over the age of 65 were recruited based on at least three months of moderate back pain, which reduced their physical function.
Half of the recruited were assigned to 90 minutes of mindful meditation over the course of eight weeks. The sessions focused on directed breathing and greater thought and sensation awareness. The other half of participants went through eight-week aging education program, which taught them about blood pressure, stretching, and pain management.
Six months later after the study, the participants returned for a booster session.
Mobility improved in both groups, but greater improvement was seen in the mindful meditation participants. Nearly 80 percent of those in the mindful meditation group experienced ease of back pain, and only 37 percent reported the same in the aging education program group.
Greater physical function improvement was also seen in the mindful meditation group, but both groups saw reduction in improvements at the six-month mark.
Monroe suggests that meditation paired with exercise can help improve physical function for greater lengths of time.