October 2, 2007
Science Daily/John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
A revered contemplative practice for centuries, meditation has recently inspired research into its therapeutic value for everything from anxiety disorders to heart attack prevention. A painful, progressive autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a high risk of depression -- double the risk of the healthy population, by conservative estimates -- and various forms of psychological distress. Increasingly, RA patients are turning to alternative therapies like meditation to ease the toll of their disease. Mindfulness-based stress reduction shows promise for easing psychological distress associated with disease symptoms.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a meditation training program developed by Dr. Kabat-Zinn and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. MBSR teaches participants to relate differently to thoughts and emotions, and continually focus the mind on the present moment to increase clarity and calmness. The program has been shown to improve psychological symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, among other conditions.
Researchers with the University of Maryland School of Medicine set out to assess the effect of this meditation therapy on depressive symptoms, psychological distress, general well-being, and disease activity among RA patients. Featured in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, their study supports the potential benefits of prescribing a course in MBSR along with the conventional course of physical and pharmacological therapy.
"The study demonstrated that for patients with RA under routine medical supervision, an 8-week MBSR class plus a 4-month maintenance program had beneficial effects, and that it was safe and appealing to participants," notes investigator Elizabeth Pradhan, PhD. "For doctors wishing to offer patients a complement to medical management, mindfulness meditation may offer hope for improving psychological distress and strengthening well-being in patients with RA."