How Mindfulness Can Reduce Your Back Pain

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Article reviewed and approved by Dr. Ibtissama Boukas, physician specializing in family medicine 

No, using relaxation or meditation techniques does not make you an esoteric being or a spiritual guru. Moreover, many practices drawn from Buddhism have been gaining popularity lately in Western countries. Several scientific studies have looked into their effectiveness with regard to stress, mental health and pain. Let's take a closer look at a practice that some followers swear has been successful in relieving their back pain.

Are you familiar with the term “mindfulness” (or “Mindfulness”, its English equivalent)? Simply said, this form of meditation consists of observing and accepting what is happening in our body, without trying to change anything. Because it emphasizes the present moment and promotes self-compassion, mindfulness helps minimize attention to one's pain. In this article, we'll make the connection between mindfulness and back pain, and show you how to incorporate this practice into your daily life.

“This form of meditation consists of observing and accepting what is happening in our body, without trying to change anything. »

mindfulness, mindfulness and back pain

Mindfulness and back pain

Alright, you tell me. I understand that mindfulness can be useful for clearing your mind. But what is the concrete link between "Mindfulness" and my lower back pain? And above all, how will observing mindfulness help me reduce my back pain? To answer this question, let's turn to the results of scientific research. A study published in the medical journal The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that meditation was found to be more effective than painkillers, and this from the first month of treatment. Another set of studies (called a 'systematic review') have shown positive results on pain, but only in the short term. We therefore see through these studies that “Mindfulness” can have a favorable effect on your back pain, but that it unfortunately does not constitute the “miracle” solution (as some may claim)!

Personally, I have no problem offering this method to my patients, especially because it is very simple to apply, costs nothing, and requires no expertise whatsoever. In my experience, some patients have benefited greatly from mindfulness, while others have not particularly enjoyed the technique. Now, how to explain the favorable effects of this technique observed in certain people suffering from the back?

“Personally, I have no problem offering this method to my patients, particularly because it is very simple to apply, costs nothing, and requires no expertise whatsoever. »

The mechanism of action of mindfulness

It is easy to conceive that by meditating, one can calm his mind and thus relax his tense muscles. But that's not all! Mindfulness has also been proven to have physiological – and therefore tangible! – effects on your body…so it's not just a change at the psychological level (commonly called “placebo”). For example, some individuals with low back pain have seen their level of cortisol (commonly referred to as the “stress hormone”) decrease following a mindfulness program. Other subjects also observed positive effects on their pain, their level of perceived daily stress and their quality of life. Finally, some studies show beneficial effects of Mindfulness on heart rate, blood pressure, and even cholesterol! 

The practical application of mindfulness

How to practice mindfulness? Nothing's easier! Don't worry, Mindfulness requires no prior knowledge and can be practiced by anyone, anywhere! There are even several applications on your laptop or the Internet allowing you to practice this technique in a guided way! In the meantime, you can start like this:

“How to practice mindfulness? Nothing's easier! »

  • -Look for a quiet and peaceful environment to do your “Mindfulness” session.
  • -Find a comfortable position that does not increase your pain (you can sit on a chair or even lie on your back if necessary).
  • -Close your eyes or focus on fixing a point.
  • -Give ALL your attention ONLY to your breathing. You can either breathe normally or practice the slow diaphragmatic breathing.
  • -As you breathe, you will see that you will have ideas that will cross your mind. Above all, do not try to block or control them!!! The purpose of "Mindfulness" is precisely to welcome these thoughts with benevolence, then to let them pass without comment. Try to step back as much as possible, as if you were observing someone else without judging or commenting.

This is how you can practice mindfulness! Of course, this is an exercise that requires a lot of patience and practice. Many people want to give up either because they are in pain, or because they can't relax, or even because they fall asleep every time! The key here is to always focus on your breathing. The other important thing to remember is not to try to control the situation, or even force our body to relax. Start with small periods of time, then increase the amount of time you meditate. With time and practice, I promise Mindfulness will get easier and easier. Hopefully you will see beneficial results on your back, your body, and your stress levels!

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