Mindfulness Meditation Offers Relief for Low-Back Pain
Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may prove more effective than usual treatment in alleviating chronic low-back pain, according to a new study funded by NCCIH.
Researchers from the Group Health Cooperative, Seattle, and the University of Washington conducted a study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in which 342 participants ages 20 to 70 used one of the two mind and body approaches or sought usual care for 1 year. At 26 and 52 weeks, participants using MBSR and CBT had greater improvement in function and back pain compared to the group that remained in standard care. Though pain intensity and some mental health measures improved in both groups, those using CBT did not see improvement beyond 26 weeks. Those using MBSR, however, continued to see improvement at 52 weeks, leading researchers to conclude MBSR may be an effective treatment for chronic low-back pain.
MBSR brings together elements of mindfulness meditation and yoga, whereas CBT is a form of psychotherapy that trains individuals to modify specific thoughts and behaviors. For the study, participants in the group using MBSR and the group using CBT attended a 2-hour group session on their respective approach each week for 8 weeks and supplemented their treatment with workbooks and CDs for practice at home. The study was led by Dr. Daniel Cherkin at the Group Health Research Institute, Seattle.
“It is vital that we identify effective non-pharmacological treatment options for 25 million people who suffer from daily pain in the United States,” said NCCIH director Dr. Josephine Briggs. “The results from this research affirm that non-drug/non-opioid therapies, such as meditation, can help manage chronic low-back pain. Physicians and their patients can use this information to inform treatment decisions.”
Experimental Dengue Vaccine Protects All Recipients in Virus Challenge Study
A clinical trial in which volunteers were infected with dengue virus 6 months after receiving either an experimental dengue vaccine developed by NIH scientists or a placebo injection yielded starkly contrasting results. All 21 volunteers who received the vaccine, TV003, were protected from infection, while all 20 placebo recipients developed infection. The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, underscores the importance of human challenge studies, in which volunteers are exposed to disease-causing pathogens under carefully controlled conditions.
“The findings from this trial are very encouraging to those of us who have spent many years working on vaccine candidates to protect against dengue, a disease that is a significant burden in much of the world and is now endemic in Puerto Rico,” said Dr. Stephen Whitehead of NIAID. “In fact, these results informed the recent decision by officials at Brazil’s Butantan Institute to advance the TV003 vaccine into a large phase 3 efficacy trial.”
Dengue fever, prevalent throughout the tropics and subtropics, is caused by any of four related dengue viruses—called serotypes—that are spread by Aedes mosquitoes, the same mosquitoes that spread Zika virus. Most of the estimated 390 million people who are infected with dengue virus each year develop either no symptoms or a mild illness. However, some people develop serious or life-threatening illness and large outbreaks lead millions to seek care, severely straining health care infrastructure in endemic countries.