Health & Wellness in the Workplace

March 16, 2016

Back pain is often cited as one of the leading causes of missed days of work in the United States. However, based on new research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, there might be a simple and cost-effective solution.

In an eight-week study following older adults who experience chronic lower back pain, researchers found that practicing mindfulness resulted in improved physical function and a decrease in pain.

“Mindfulness meditation focuses on letting go of struggle and accepting one’s condition without judgement,” said Natalia Morone, the study’s lead investigator, in a statement. “The mind-body program teaches patients how to be more aware of their thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviors. As patients learn to do this, they can become more aware of behaviors or even thoughts and feelings about pain that make it worse, or more difficult for them to do activities.”

Participants were taught three mindfulness meditation methods they practiced alone and in group sessions for eight weeks. These included:

  1. Self-examination in which the participant lays down and focuses attention non-judgmentally on each area of the body
  2. Sitting practice, which focuses on breathing while seated
  3. Walking meditation, which is mindful, slow walking with focused attention on how the body feels

The practice had long-term benefits as well. In fact, six months after the program, 76 percent of participants still noted improvement in their back pain symptoms.