Objectives: Determine the impact of an 8-week mindfulness meditation program on disability, psychological function, and pain severity in community-dwelling older adults with chronic low back pain, and to test the education control program for feasibility.
Design: Randomized controlled trial. Participants. Forty community-dwelling older adults with moderate low back pain or greater for at least the previous 3 months. Intervention. Participants were randomized to an 8-week meditation program or an 8-week education control program.
Outcome measures: Disability, psychological function, and pain severity were assessed. The same measures were obtained for both groups at baseline, at the end of the program, and 4 months after program completion.
Results: Sixteen participants (80%) completed the meditation program and 19 (95%) completed the education program. Both the meditation and control group improved on measures of disability, pain, and psychological function, both at program completion and 4-month follow-up. The differences between the two groups did not reach statistical significance. The meditation group practiced mindfulness meditation a mean of 5 days/week (range 1-7) and mean of 31 minutes/session (range 22-48). At 4 months follow-up 14/16 (88%) participants continued to meditate.
Conclusion: Both the intervention group and the education control group improved on outcome measures suggesting both programs had a beneficial effect. Participants continued to meditate on 4-month follow-up. The control program was feasible but not inert. Piloting the control program in mind-body research can inform the design of larger clinical trials.