A pilot study evaluating mindfulness-based stress reduction and massage for the management of chronic pain

J Gen Intern Med. 2005 Dec;20(12):1136-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1497.2005.0247.x.


Background: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and massage may be useful adjunctive therapies for chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Objective: To evaluate the feasibility of studying MBSR and massage for the management of chronic pain and estimate their effects on pain and mood.

Design: Randomized trial comparing MBSR or massage with standard care.

Participants: Thirty patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.

Measurements: Pain was assessed with 0 to 10 numeric rating scales. Physical and mental health status was measured with the SF-12.

Results: The study completion rate was 76.7%. At week 8, the massage group had average difference scores for pain unpleasantness of 2.9 and mental health status of 13.6 compared with 0.13 (P<.05) and 3.9 (P<.04), respectively, for the standard care group. These differences were no longer significant at week 12. There were no significant differences in the pain outcomes for the MBSR group. At week 12, the mean change in mental health status for the MBSR group was 10.2 compared with -1.7 in the standard care group (P<.04).

Conclusions: It is feasible to study MBSR and massage in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain. Mindfulness-based stress reduction may be more effective and longer-lasting for mood improvement while massage may be more effective for reducing pain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / complications*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / psychology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Relaxation Therapy*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*