Chronic neck pain can lead to serious comorbidities like depression. Patients with chronic neck pain frequently experience distress. Meditation has been increasingly used as a supportive treatment for individuals with chronic pain.
Previous research has shown that chronic pain is associated with distress and that meditation has stress relieving benefits. German researchers compared the effects of meditation on pain, perceived stress and psychological well being. They hypothesized that an eight-week meditation program will decrease pain more effectively than a standardized exercise program and that pain relief will coincide with stress reduction.
For the study, 89 patients with chronic neck pain who showed increased perceived stress were randomized into meditation and exercise program groups. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and after eight weeks.
Results showed that meditation training significantly reduced pain when compared to the exercise group and pain-related "bothersomeness" decreased more in the meditation group as well. No significant differences between meditation and exercise were found for pain during movement, pain disability, psychological scores and quality of life, which is consistent with the known benefits of exercise on pain-related outcomes. The authors concluded that meditation has unique benefits for producing pain relief and for pain coping.