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For Chronic Pain, Mindfulness Approaches Are as Effective as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

03 Jul

Researchers from the University of Twente in The Netherlands assessed the effects of acceptance-based interventions on patients with chronic pain. [Acceptance-based interventions such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are alternative therapies for cognitive behavioral therapy for treating chronic pain patients.]  

The investigators conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled and non-controlled studies that reported effects on mental and physical health of pain patients. All studies were rated for quality.  Primary outcomes measured were pain intensity and depression. Secondary outcomes measured were anxiety, physical well-being and quality of life. 

Twenty-two studies (9 randomized controlled studies, 5 clinical controlled studies without randomization, and 8 non-controlled studies) were included, totaling 1235 patients with chronic pain.  An effect size on pain of 0.37 was found for the controlled studies. The effect on depression was 0.32. The quality of the studies was not found to moderate the effects of these acceptance-based interventions. 

The results suggest that at present mindfulness-based stress reduction programs and acceptance and commitment therapy are not superior to cognitive behavioral therapy, but can be just-as-good alternatives to it.  

Acceptance-based therapies have small to medium effects on physical and mental health in chronic pain patients. These effects are comparable to those of cognitive behavioral therapy. More high-quality studies are needed.  The investigators recommended studies that focus on therapies that integrate mindfulness and behavioral therapy.

Citation: Veehof MM, Oskam MJ, Schreurs KM, Bohlmeijer ET. Acceptance-based interventions for the treatment of chronic pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain. 2011 Mar;152 (3):533-42. Epub 2011 Jan 19. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.