Mindfulness for Low Back Pain

Lower back pain is fast becoming a major public health problem. Perhaps because of our increasingly sedentary life style it affects around 75% of the population at some point during their lives. However, there is no optimum clinical treatment. In light of this, many people turn to complementary therapies. A recent systematic review by Anheyer and colleagues [1] looked at the effectiveness of such a therapy, mindfulness-based interventions. Mindfulness-based stress reduction programmes (MBSR), and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) (see main article) usually involve activities such as meditation, yoga, and focusing attention on different parts of the body. The authors identified seven RCTs involving 864 patients, and found that MBSR was associated with statistically significant short-term improvements in pain, compared to standard care, though these weren’t sustained in the long term, and could not be deemed clinically meaningful. However, there were no significant differences when compared to active comparators, such as health education programmes. These were only a limited number of RCTs and there is still a need for long-term RCTs that compare MBSR against active treatments.

— Peter Chilton, Research Fellow


  1. Anheyer D, Haller H, Barth J, et al. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for treating low back pain. A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2017; 166: 799-807.

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