Mindfulness for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Qualitative Analysis

Pain Med. 2018 Nov 1;19(11):2138-2145. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnx197.


Objective: Mindfulness is a nonpharmacologic mind-body therapy that has been shown to be effective in older adults with chronic low back pain (cLBP). There are few first-person accounts in the literature that describe the older adult experience and perspective while learning mindfulness and meditation to treat pain. The objective of this study was to investigate dominant themes present in the experiences of older adults applying mindfulness and meditation to cope with cLBP.

Design: Qualitative analysis of four focus groups.

Subject: Twenty-five adults age 65 years or older who had completed an eight-week mindfulness program.

Methods: The focus groups met for a comprehensive discussion session about their experience with mindfulness and meditation. The audio for each session was recorded, and the discussions were transcribed. Codebook development, qualitative coding, and thematic analysis were performed. The coders each coded all four transcripts, following which they met to adjudicate all coding differences until they were in complete agreement on coding.

Results: Several key themes were brought up by older adults utilizing mindfulness as a means of coping with pain, which included overcoming fear of pain ("Before [learning mindfulness], I used to dread pain"), pain awareness ("You're focusing more on being aware than the pain; now that's what helps me"), and pain significance ("It becomes insignificant").

Conclusions: The themes identify several ways mindfulness impacts older adults with cLBP, including decreased negative emotions related to chronic pain such as fear of pain, a different perspective or change in awareness about pain, and reducing the significance of pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Awareness / physiology*
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology
  • Mindfulness*
  • Pain Measurement / psychology*
  • Treatment Outcome