Mindfulness meditation has been demonstrated in research trials to alter perceived pain, reduce depression, and decrease stress. Results of a pilot study were recently published in support of mindfulness meditation for women with chronic pelvic pain.
The mindfulness program the women participated in was 8 weeks long and assessment tools included (but were not limited to) daily pain scores, the SF-36, and a depressive scale. For the women who completed the program, significant improvements were noted in daily pain scores, physical function, mental health, and social function. Only 12 of 22 women enrolled completed the study, which may indicate that this type of program may not have global appeal or it may be difficult for women with chronic pain to commit to a daily regimen for 8 weeks.
This pilot study is encouraging in its outcomes and demonstrates that meditation can serve as another option for women dealing with chronic pain. There is significantly more research investigating the changes in the brain function of those who meditate. One such study describes increased brain connectivity in those who have practiced meditation long-term. Functional MRI has been used to describe mechanisms that allow pain modulation to occur for those in a meditative state.
It is helpful for us to be aware of the increased attention the scientific community has given to the potential benefits of meditation, and to be able to share mindfulness meditation as an option for our patients. You may find it helpful to have a few relaxation or meditation CD's in your practice space that a patient can listen to while on heat or electrical stimulation. That way a patient might better decide if it is something he or she would like to purchase for home use. You can find an example of various relaxation and meditation CD's available at the website of Carolyn McManus,a physical therapist in Seattle.