Does mindfulness improve outcomes in chronic pain patients? Systematic review and meta-analysis

Fathima L Marikar Bawa, Stewart W Mercer, Rachel Atherton, Fiona Clague, Andrew Keen, Neil W Scott, Christine M. Bond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

66 Citations (Scopus)
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Background Chronic pain and its associated distress and disability are common reasons for seeking medical help. Patients with chronic pain use primary healthcare services five times more than the rest of the population. Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular self-management technique.

Aim To assess the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for patients with chronic pain.

Design and setting Systematic review and meta-analysis including randomised controlled trials of mindfulness-based interventions for chronic pain. There was no restriction to study site or setting.

Method The databases MEDLINE®, Embase, AMED, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Index to Theses were searched. Titles, abstracts, and full texts were screened iteratively against inclusion criteria of: randomised controlled trials of mindfulness-based intervention; patients with non-malignant chronic pain; and economic, clinical, or humanistic outcome reported. Included studies were assessed with the Yates Quality Rating Scale. Meta-analysis was conducted.

Results Eleven studies were included. Chronic pain conditions included: fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic musculoskeletal pain, failed back surgery syndrome, and mixed aetiology. Papers were of mixed methodological quality. Main outcomes reported were pain intensity, depression, physical functioning, quality of life, pain acceptance, and mindfulness. Economic outcomes were rarely reported. Meta-analysis effect sizes for clinical outcomes ranged from 0.12 (95% confidence interval [CI] = −0.05 to 0.30) (depression) to 1.32 (95% CI = −1.19 to 3.82) (sleep quality), and for humanistic outcomes 0.03 (95% CI = −0.66 to 0.72) (mindfulness) to 1.58 (95% CI = −0.57 to 3.74) (pain acceptance). Studies with active, compared with inactive, control groups showed smaller effects.

Conclusion There is limited evidence for effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions for patients with chronic pain. Better-quality studies are required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-400
Number of pages14
JournalThe British Journal of General Practice
Issue number635
Early online date26 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015



  • chronic pain
  • mindfulness
  • primary health care
  • review
  • meta-analysis

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