Over the past decade there has been an increasing interest in mindfulness training as an adjunct to medical treatment. Practicing mindfulness has demonstrated potential to alleviate emotional distress and promote well being in people with various chronic conditions. Mindfulness is adapted from ancient Buddhist traditions and has been defined in a Western secular context as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally, to the unfolding experience moment to moment” (Kabat-Zinn 1996). An attitude of openness, curiosity and acceptance towards emotions, thoughts and bodily sensations as they are experienced in the present moment is essential. The purpose is to strengthen people’s capacity to sustain mindful awareness.
The most frequently applied training program is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which was originally developed for people with chronic pain and has later been applied to people with a wide variety of chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. MBSR comprises 8 - 10 group sessions, lasting for 2.5 - 3 hours, for up to 30 participants. The basic methods used are different awareness exercises with the breath as an anchor, body scan, mindful movement through yoga exercises and awareness in daily activities. Additionally, group participants discuss their experiences. Training of mindfulness is also an important component of other programs, such as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and the Norwegian vitality training program (VTP), which have been applied to people with chronic pain conditions and inflammatory arthritis, respectively.
People with RMDs have increased risk of developing emotional distress, anxiety and depressed mood. Mindfulness training may therefore be a valuable adjunct to medical treatment for these patients. Although the evidence is still limited, mindfulness training has demonstrated improvements in distress, mood states, fatigue, self-efficacy and overall well being in people with fibromyalgia and inflammatory arthritis. The effects on pain are less conclusive. Further high quality studies in people with RMDs are needed.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared
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