Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program on Chronic Low-Back Pain: A Study Investigating the Impact on Endocrine, Physical, and Psychologic Functioning

Rita B. Ardito, DPsych, PhD,1,2,* Piero Stanley Pirro, DPsych,1,* Tania S. Re, DPsych,3

Isabella Bonapace, DPsych,4 Valentino Menardo, MD,5 Emanuela Bruno, MD,5

and Laura Gianotti, MD, PhD6

Abstract Objective: To explore the impact of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program on pain severity and endocrine, physical, and psychologic functioning in patients with chronic low-back pain (CLBP). Methods: A total of 28 participants were enrolled in the study between January and June 2014; 17 participants were sequentially sampled for an 8-week MBSR program, and 11 were placed on a waitlist control group. Pain severity, quality of life (QOL), global psychologic functioning, and depression were assessed at baseline, at the end of treatment, and 4–5 months post-treatment for both groups. Morning and evening salivary cortisol was assessed at multiple time points in participants in the MBSR group.
Results: In comparison with baseline, evening cortisol release showed a significant increase post-treatment. Significant differences between groups were found in pain severity. Medium-to-large effect sizes were found for between-group differences in both pain severity and QOL. Conclusions: The cortisol increase in the MBSR group is a promising finding, in the context of CLBP hypocortisolism. Data show that the effects of the MBSR treatment may take time to surface. However, due to small sample size, decisive interpretation of findings is limited. Nevertheless, the MBSR program may show promise for CLBP and should be an avenue for further investigation through larger clinical trials within healthcare systems. Keywords: chronic low-back pain, cortisol, healthcare systems, meditation program, mindfulness, physical and mental health.

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