Intensive meditation for refractory pain and symptoms

J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jun;16(6):627-31. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0372.


Objective: The objective of this study was to assess patient interest in intensive meditation training for chronic symptoms.

Design and setting: This was a cross-sectional anonymous survey among six chronic disease clinics in Baltimore including Chronic Kidney Disease, Crohn's Disease, Headache, Renal Transplant Recipients, General Rheumatology, and lupus clinic.

Subjects: Subjects were 1119 consecutive patients registering for their appointments at these clinics.

Outcome measures: Outcome measures were 6-month pain, global symptomatology, four-item perceived stress scale, use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, and attitudes toward use of meditation for managing symptoms. We then gave a scripted description of an intensive, 10-day meditation training retreat. Patient interest in attending such a retreat was assessed.

Results: Seventy-seven percent (77%) of patients approached completed the survey. Fifty-three percent (53%) of patients reported moderate to severe pain over the past 6 months. Eighty percent (80%) reported use of some CAM therapy in the past. Thirty-five percent (35%) thought that learning meditation would improve their health, and 49% thought it would reduce stress. Overall, 39% reported interest in attending the intensive 10-day meditation retreat. Among those reporting moderate to severe pain or stress, the percentages were higher (48% and 59%). In a univariate analysis, higher education, nonworking/disabled status, female gender, higher stress, higher pain, higher symptomatology, and any CAM use were all associated with a greater odds of being moderately to very interested in an intensive 10-day meditation retreat. A multivariate model that included prior use of CAM therapies as predictors of interest in the program fit the data significantly better than a model not including CAM therapies (p = 0.0013).

Conclusions: Over 50% of patients followed in chronic disease clinics complain of moderate to severe pain. Patients with persistent pain or stress are more likely to be interested in intensive meditation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Baltimore
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Complementary Therapies / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Class
  • Treatment Outcome