Nevermind Mindfulness

Mindful meditation doesn't appear to help fibromyalgia sufferers, but losing weight might

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Mindful meditation -- a combination of gentle yoga maneuvers and meditation -- doesn't appear to help those with the chronic pain condition known as fibromyalgia.

The study, from the University Medical Center in Freiburg, Germany, looked at the technique of lmindful meditation's effects in 177 women with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes widespread body pain and tenderness in muscles, joints, tendons and other soft tissues.

Women assigned to the meditation therapy group showed no significant improvements in health or quality of life, including physical symptoms and emotional well-being, compared to those in a control group.

Dr. Alex Zautra, a professor in psychology at Arizona State University in Tempe who was not involved with the study, said he was surprised by the results of the analysis. He said he assumed people with fibromyalgia -- which has been linked to depression and anxiety -- would be good candidates for the double-pronged approach of mind-body therapy.

Fibromyalgia affects approximately 5 million U.S. adults, most of whom are middle-aged women. The syndrome is characterized by so-called tender points in the body and can be accompanied by fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disturbances.

There are no apparent underlying factors, such as inflammation or tissue damage, that promote fibromyalgia symptoms, which has led researchers to speculate the cause of the condition. Some believe the syndrome could be a result of how the brain processes pain signals.

Treatment for fibromyalgia generally includes painkillers, antidepressants, cognitive-behavioral therapy and/or exercise therapy.

A new study from the University of Utah suggests losing weight may help ease symptoms in obese fibromyalgia sufferers. The study found obese patients suffer more severe symptoms, including pain, reduced flexibility and sleep disturbances.

Researchers followed 215 patients with fibromyalgia -- nearly half of whom were obese and another 30 percent were overweight -- and found obese patients experienced much greater pain to the touch in lower body areas. These same patients also exhibited decreased physical strength, reduced lower-body flexibility, shorter sleeptimes and greater restlessness when they did sleep.

To maximize symptom relief, the researchers recommended medication, proper nutrition and exercise. If walking is an issue because of pain, Vitaly Napadow, an assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School who was not connected to the study, recommended upper-body exercise regimens.

Obesity and fibromyalgia are risk factors for one another, both of which, when combined, can create a vicious cycle in which pain poses a barrier to overall health-promoting exercise.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 10, 2011
Last Updated:
January 10, 2011