Posted from archive: 12.24.2013 | by AMRA
Is mindfulness then more effective in reducing pain and stress than simple relaxation alone? Feuille and Pargament [Journal of Health Psychology] conducted a randomized controlled trial comparing standardized mindfulness (STM), spiritualized mindfulness (SPM), and simple relaxation in a cohort of 74 migraine sufferers. Participants underwent a brief, single-session training in STM, SPM, or simple relaxation, in which they received only 5 to 7 minutes of guided practice and then practiced their assigned technique at home for 20 minutes a day over two weeks. The STM and SPM conditions were identical, except for the inclusion of a spiritually oriented rationale in the SPM condition, which was untied to theism or the beliefs of any specific religion.
Both meditation groups employed focused attention to the breath without an open monitoring component. At the study’s conclusion, participants’ pain tolerance was evaluated by a cold pressor task assessing their ability to maintain their hand in icy cold water for as long as they could tolerate, and their pain, stress, and mindfulness (as measured by the Toronto Mindfulness Scale) were rated during the procedure. Both meditation groups reported significantly lower stress than the simple relaxation group, but none of the groups differed in their pain perception or tolerance. SPM participants had a greater sense of connection to the sacred and experienced higher levels of mindfulness, but the STM and simple relaxation participants failed to differ from each other on those measures.
Very brief meditation training did not alter pain perception and tolerance in this study, which is consistent with findings that focused attention is not as effective as open monitoring in reducing pain, but it may also reflect the exceedingly brief nature of the training provided in this study. Despite these limitations, meditation was still more effective in reducing stress than relaxation alone.
Reference: Feuille, M., & Pargament, K. (2013). Pain, mindfulness, and spirituality: A randomized controlled trial comparing effects of mindfulness and relaxation on pain-related outcomes in migraineurs. Journal of Health Psychology. doi:10.1177/1359105313508459. [PMID: 24203489]