Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Women: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial

Abstract

Background

Several recent reviews have evaluated evidence on the efficacy of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) among fibromyalgia sufferers, and concluded that more research should test effects on both psychological and physiological functioning.

Purpose

We conducted a randomized prospective trial of MBSR among female fibromyalgia patients.

Methods

Effects on perceived stress, pain, sleep quality, fatigue, symptom severity, and salivary cortisol were tested in treatment (n = 51) versus wait-list control participants (n = 40) using data at baseline, post-program, and 2-month follow-up.

Results

Analyses revealed that MBSR significantly reduced perceived stress, sleep disturbance, and symptom severity, with gains maintained at follow-up. Greater home practice at follow-up was associated with reduced symptom severity. MBSR did not significantly alter pain, physical functioning, or cortisol profiles.

Conclusion

MBSR ameliorated some of the major symptoms of fibromyalgia and reduced subjective illness burden. Further exploration of MBSR effects on physiological stress responses is warranted. These results support use of MBSR as a complementary treatment for women with fibromyalgia (ISRCTN: 34628811).

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Acknowledgments

This was an investigator-initiated study funded by faculty startup monies awarded to S.E.S by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. A.F. was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute. L.A.Z. was supported by a doctoral fellowship from the University of Louisville School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies. S.E.S. was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health. E.D. was supported by a Career Development Award-2 from the Clinical Science Research and Development Service of the VA Office of Research and Development. The funders played no role in the design, conduct or analysis of the study, nor in the interpretation and reporting of the study findings. The researchers were independent from the funders. All authors, external and internal, had full access to all of the data (including statistical reports and tables) in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Authors’ Statement of Conflict of Interest and Adherence to Ethical Standards

Author Elizabeth Cash, Author Paul Salmon, Author Inka Weissbecker, Author Whitney N. Rebholz, Author Rene Bayley-Veloso, Author Lauren Zimmaro, Author Andrea Floyd, Author Eric Dedert, and Author Sandra E. Sephton declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures, including the informed consent process, were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.

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Correspondence to Sandra E. Sephton PhD.

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Cash, E., Salmon, P., Weissbecker, I. et al. Mindfulness Meditation Alleviates Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Women: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial. ann. behav. med. 49, 319–330 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-014-9665-0

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Keywords

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Perceived stress
  • Sleep
  • Cortisol