To identify the effects of mindfulness meditation on older adults with chronic low back pain (CLBP), we conducted a qualitative study based on grounded theory and used content analysis of diary entries from older adults who had participated in a clinical trial of an 8-week mindfulness meditation program. Participants were 27 adults > or = 65 years of age with CLBP of at least moderate severity and of at least 3 months duration. We found several themes reflecting the beneficial effects of mindfulness meditation on pain, attention, sleep, and achieving well-being. Various methods of pain reduction were used, including distraction, increased body awareness leading to behavior change, better pain coping, and direct pain reduction through meditation. Participants described improved attention skills. A number of participants reported improved sleep latency as well as quality of sleep. Participants described achieving well-being during and after a meditation session that had immediate effects on mood elevation but also long-term global effects on improved quality of life. Several themes were identified related to pain reduction, improved attention, improved sleep, and achieving well-being resulting from mindfulness meditation that suggest it has promising potential as a nonpharmacologic treatment of chronic pain for older adults.
Perspective: Community-dwelling older adults with chronic low back pain experience numerous benefits from mindfulness meditation including less pain, improved attention, better sleep, enhanced well-being, and improved quality of life. Additional research is needed to determine how mindfulness meditation works and how it might help with other chronic illnesses.