Integrated Meditation and Exercise Therapy: A Randomized Controlled Pilot of a Combined Nonpharmacological Intervention Focused on Reducing Disability and Pain in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain



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Journal Article

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Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.)





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Chronic Low Back Pain, Exercise, Integrative Health, Mindfulness Meditation, Quantitative Sensory Testing


OBJECTIVE: This pilot trial examined the effects of a combined intervention of mindfulness meditation followed by aerobic walking exercise compared with a control condition in chronic low back pain patients. We hypothesized that meditation before exercise would reduce disability, pain, and anxiety by increasing mindfulness prior to physical activity compared with an audiobook control group. PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-eight adults completed either meditation and exercise treatment (MedExT) (n=18) or an audiobook control condition (n=20). SETTING: Duquesne University Exercise Physiology Laboratory. DESIGN: A pilot, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled trial. METHODS: Over a 4-week period, participants in the MedExT group performed 12-17 minutes of guided meditation followed by 30 minutes of moderate-intensity walking exercise 5 days per week. Measures of disability, pain, mindfulness, and anxiety were taken at baseline and postintervention. Pain perception measurements were taken daily. RESULTS: Compared with the control group, we observed larger improvements in disability in the MedExT intervention, although the changes were modest and not statistically significant (mean between-group difference, -1.24; 95% confidence interval [CI], -3.1 to 0.6). For secondary outcome measures, MedExT increased mindfulness (within-group) from pre-intervention to postintervention (P=0.0141). Additionally, mean ratings of low back pain intensity and unpleasantness significantly improved with time for the MedExT group compared with that of the control group, respectively (intensity P=0.0008; unpleasantness P=0.0022). CONCLUSION: . Overall, 4 weeks of MedExT produced suggestive between-group trends for disability, significant between-group differences for measures of pain, and significant within-group increases in mindfulness.

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