Posted 04.20.2015 | by AMRA

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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that damages the integrity of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord resulting in a variety of sensory and motor deficits and often leading to mobility impairment, pain, and fatigue. MS patients frequently suffer from depression and anxiety, and there is some evidence that stress may play a role in precipitating tissue damage. MS can manifest as either a relapsing and remitting disease with symptoms that wax and wane, or as a progressive disease with a degenerative course.

Bogosian et al. [Multiple Sclerosis Journal] completed a pilot study of the effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) for reducing distress in patients with progressive MS. The intervention, adapted from Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and tailored to the specific needs of MS patients, was delivered via eight teleconferenced one-hour group sessions. Meditations were kept brief (10-20 minutes) and the mindful movement component was eliminated.

Forty British patients with progressive MS were randomly assigned to either the MBI or a waitlist control. They completed a variety of self-report measures at baseline, immediate post-intervention, and three-month follow-up. The cohort was 90% Caucasian and 55% female (average age = 53 years).

The MBI participants reported significantly lower rates of distress at immediate post-intervention (moderate effect size) and three-month follow-up (large effect size) compared to the waitlist controls. They also reported significantly greater reductions in depression and the psychological impact of their MS (moderate to large effect sizes) at both assessment points. Anxiety was significantly lower (moderate effect size) at three month follow-up, but not at post-intervention.

Group differences in physical symptoms (e.g., pain and fatigue) tended to be non-significant except for pain at three-months (less for MBI participants, moderate effect size) and the physical impact of MS (less for MBI participants, small effect size) at post-intervention. The cumulative cost of care was lower for MBI participants as compared to controls by an average of $3,400 USD, but the difference was not statistically significant.

The pilot study demonstrated the ability of a teleconference-delivered MBI to reduce mental distress in progressive MS patients. MBIs may be a cost effective way of reducing the cumulative consumption of health care services. The study was limited by its lack of both an active control group and a measure to quantify changes in mindfulness.

Reference:

Bogosian, A., Chadwick, P., Windgassen, S., Norton, S., McCrone, P., Mosweu, I., . . . Moss-Morris, R. (2015). Distress improves after mindfulness training for progressive MS: A pilot randomised trial. Multiple Sclerosis.

[Link to abstract]