Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Fatigue,
Depression, Quality Of Life For MS Patients
28 Sep 2010
A new study from Switzerland suggests that
learning mindfulness meditation eased fatigue,
depression and quality of life for multiple
sclerosis (MS) patients compared with patients
who received standard medical care.
The study was the work of Dr Paul Grossman,
of the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine,
in the Division of Internal Medicine at the
University of Basel Hospital, and colleagues,
and is published in the 28 September issue of
Neurology, the medical journal of the American
Academy of Neurology.
Grossman and colleagues recruited 150 patients
with relapsing-remitting or secondary progressive
multiple sclerosis, and randomly assigned them
to receive either standard medical care
(74 patients) or undergo eight weeks of training
in mindfulness meditation (76 patients).
The mindfulness training comprised weekly
classes of 2.5 hours, an all-day retreat, and
40 minutes per day of personal practice.
The approach of mindfulness meditation trains
a person to develop non-judgemental awareness
of the present moment, such as focusing the
attention on sensory information rather than
what it means. Thoughts of a judgemental nature,
triggered memories and worries about the future,
are nudged aside as attention is devoted to
"here and now" sensations and messages.
The results showed that the patients who underwent
the training had improved quality of life and
reduced fatigue and depression after the course
and also at a six-month follow up, compared to
their counterparts who only received the standard medical care.
Very few patients pulled out of the training
before it finished (only 5 per cent), and those
who completed it improved on nearly every measure
of fatigue, depression (symptoms of depression
went down by over 30 per cent), and quality of
life, whereas the patients who received the standard
medical care declined slightly on most measures.
Some of the biggest improvements in the mindfulness
group was among the 65 per cent or so patients
who showed the highest levels of depression or
fatigue before they started the course. By the end
of the course this risk group had reduced by a third,
and the proportion was sustained at the six-month
The other benefits of the mindfulness training were
also still there at the six-month follow up, although
in some cases the levels were lower than they were
right after the end of the course. In the case of
fatigue however, the results showed the reductions
at the end of the course were at the same levels
six months later.
In an accompanying editorial, Drs Jinny Tavee and
Lael Stone of the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, US, wrote
that because the study did not compare the mindfulness
group against another active group (using a
different type of intervention), we cannot be
certain that the benefits accrued specifically as
a result of mindfulness training.
However, they did point out that this was the
largest study of its type, it was well conducted
and "solidly designed", and it underlined the
importance of directing treatment at quality of
life issues in patients with MS.
The authors said the evidence supportrd the idea
that patients with other chronic disorders that
impair quality of life may also benefit from
Grossman said in a statement that fatigue,
depression, anxiety and impaired quality of
life are common consequences of having MS:
"People with MS must often confront special
challenges of life related to profession,
financial security, recreational and social
activities, and personal relationships, not
to mention the direct fears associated with
current or future physical symptoms and disability."
But unfortunately, he explained, the treatments
that help slow the disease have little effect
in these areas.
"So any complementary treatments that can
quickly and directly improve quality of life
are very welcome," he added.
He also explained that MS is an upredictable
disease, where people can go for months feeling
good and then have a relapse that stops them
working or taking care of their family.
"Mindfulness training can help those with MS
better to cope with these changes," said Grossman.
"Increased mindfulness in daily life may also
contribute to a more realistic sense of control,
as well as a greater appreciation of positive
experiences that continue be part of life," he added.
"MS quality of life, depression, and fatigue improve after mindfulness training: A randomized trial."
P. Grossman, L. Kappos, H. Gensicke, M. D'Souza, D.C. Mohr, I.K. Penner, and C. Steiner.
Neurology, Volume 75, Issue 13 : pp 1141-1149, published 28 September 2010.
Additional sources: American Academy of Neurology, .
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD
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