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Mindfulness meditation may ease chronic inflammatory conditions.
People with chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from practising mindfulness meditation techniques, research has shown. Mindfulness meditation is a stress reduction technique that was originally designed for patients with chronic pain. Participants focus their attention on their breath, bodily sensations and mental content while sitting down, walking or practising yoga.
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US recently carried out a study to compare two methods of reducing psychological stress, which plays an important role in chronic inflammatory conditions. They compared a mindfulness meditation-based approach with a programme designed to enhance health in other ways, including nutritional education, exercise and music therapy. Immune and hormone measures were collected before and after training sessions using a social stress test tool to induce psychological stress and a capsaicin cream to produce inflammation of the skin. Analysis revealed that both stress reduction approaches were effective at reducing stress, but that the mindfulness meditation approach was better at reducing stress-induced inflammation.
The researchers concluded that approaches aimed at reducing emotional reactivity may be beneficial for people with chronic inflammatory conditions, with mindfulness techniques appearing to be particularly good at relieving symptoms of inflammation. Lead author Melissa Rosenkranz, whose findings are published in the journal Brain, Behaviour and Immunity, said: “We wanted to develop an intervention that was meant to produce positive change and compare the mindfulness approach to an intervention that was structurally equivalent. ”This is not a cure-all, but our study does show that there are specific ways that mindfulness can be beneficial, and that there are specific people who may be more likely to benefit from this approach than other interventions. “ She added that in these individuals, a mindfulness-based approach to stress reduction may provide a “lower-cost alternative or complement to standard treatment”.
Arthritis Research UK is currently funding a pilot trial investigating the effectiveness of mindfulness as part of a programme of cognitive behavioural therapy compared with intensive physiotherapy in people with severe long-term back pain.
Arthritis Research UK – Published on 17 January 2013