Carlson, L. E. (2012). Mindfulness-based interventions for physical conditions: a narrative review evaluating levels of evidence. ISRN psychiatry. Article ID 651583. Full text.
Research on mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for treating symptoms of a wide range of medical conditions has proliferated in recent decades. Mindfulness is the cultivation of nonjudgmental awareness in the present moment. It is both a practice and a way of being in the world. based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
This paper begins with a discussion of the phenomenological experience of coping with a chronic and potentially life-threatening illness, followed by a theoretical discussion of the application of mindfulness in these situations. The literature evaluating MBIs within medical conditions is then comprehensively reviewed, applying a levels of evidence rating framework within each major condition. The bulk of the research looked at diagnoses of cancer, pain conditions (chronic pain, low back pain, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis), cardiovascular disease, diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and irritable bowel syndrome.
Most outcomes assessed are psychological in nature and show substantial benefit, although some physical and disease-related parameters have also been evaluated. The field would benefit from more adequately powered randomized controlled trials utilizing active comparison groups and assessing the moderating role of patient characteristics and program “dose” in determining outcomes.
Zernicke, K. A., et al. (2012). Mindfulness-based stress reduction improves distress in two different chronic illnesses. Journal of Behavioral Health, 1 (3), 201-208. Full text.
Abstract: Distress is well recognized as endemic in cancer populations: less is known about distress in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This study compared distress between individuals with IBS (n=51) and those with cancer (n=147) participating in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Patients completed mood and symptoms of stress questionnaires pre- and post- MBSR intervention as well as at 6-month follow-up.
The IBS group demonstrated higher baseline total symptoms of stress and more muscle tension, sympathetic nervous system arousal, and neurological/GI symptoms. They also had higher baseline tension/anxiety scores on the mood measure. While both groups decreased significantly post-MBSR on total stress symptoms and mood disturbance scores, the IBS group showed a small increase in stress symptoms between post-program and 6-month follow-up.
These findings highlight the high levels of distress associated with IBS, and support evidence that MBSR may be beneficial in reducing both IBS and cancer related distress.