Mindfulness Meditation for Symptom Reduction in Fibromyalgia: Psychophysiological Correlates
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Objectives Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome, is often accompanied by psychological distress and increased basal sympathetic tone. In a previous report it was shown that mindfulness-based stress-reduction (MBSR) reduced depressive symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia with gains maintained at two months follow-up (Sephton et al., Arthr Rheum 57:77–85, 2007). This second study explores the effects of MBSR on basal sympathetic (SNS) activation among women with fibromyalgia. Methods Participants (n = 24) responded to a television news appearance, newspaper, and radio advertisements. Effects on anxiety, depressive symptoms, and SNS activation measures were tested before and after MBSR using a within-subjects design. Results The MBSR treatment significantly reduced basal electrodermal (skin conductance level; SCL) activity (t = 3.298, p = .005) and SCL activity during meditation (t = 4.389, p = .001), consistent with reduced SNS activation. Conclusions In this small sample, basal SNS activity was reduced following MBSR treatment. Future studies should assess how MBSR may help reduce negative psychological symptoms and attenuate SNS activation in fibromyalgia. Further clarification of psychological and physiological responses associated with fibromyalgia may lead to more beneficial treatment.