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Mindful Meditation Eases Depression and Fatigue in MS Patients


A mindful meditation program has been shown to reduce fatigue and depression for up to six months in patients with multiple sclerosis, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. And the best part, according to Mayo Clinic professor Moses Rodriguez, is that it is safe and inexpensive.

The majority of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) describes fatigue as their “most disabling symptom” and between 25-50% of patients suffers from depression and/or anxiety. Patients with MS often confront special challenges of life related to profession, financial security and personal relationships, according to lead study author Paul Grossman PhD. Treatments that slow the disease process do not necessarily affect these quality of life issues.

Read: Transcendental Meditation Eases Depression and Reduces Heart Disease Risk

MS patient meditation dropout rate only 5 percent

Researchers at University Hospital Basel in Switzerland randomly assigned 150 MS patients to take part in either an eight-week meditation program based on mindfulness techniques or receive standard medical care. Classes of 2 ½ hours were held weekly, along with an all-day retreat and 40 minutes of daily homework assignments.

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Only 5% of the participants in the meditation class dropped out during the study, compared to 9% of the standard treatment group. Patients assessed using several psychological tools after the study reported a 30% improvement in all measures of fatigue, depression, anxiety and quality of life which were still evident as much as six months later.

Read: Mindfulness Helps Mood and Memory

Mindfulness is described as a “nonjudgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience” such as focusing attention on sensory information rather than what it means. In an accompanying editorial, neurologist Jimmy Tavee of the Cleveland Clinic says “you learn to objectify what you’re feeling, be it pain or anxiety or depression, and see it as a separate entity that’s not part of yourself. It helps you let it go.”

“MS is an unpredictable disease,” said Dr. Grossman. “People can go for months feeling great and then have an attack that may reduce their ability to work or take care of their family.” Mindfulness training may contribute to a more realistic sense of control as well as a greater appreciation of the positives in life, he concludes.

Source references:
Grossman P, et al "MS quality of life, depression, and fatigue improve after mindfulness training: A randomized trial" Neurology 2010; 75: 1141-1149.
Tavee J, Stone L "Healing the mind: Meditation and multiple sclerosis" Neurology 2010; 75: 1130-1131.



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