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Study Finds That Online Meditation Course Reduces MS Symptoms and Enhances Well-Being

March 28, 2018

SUMMARY
  • In a study involving 139 people with MS, an 8-week online course on meditation increased quality of life and reduced depression, anxiety, and sleep problems, but the results were not maintained after six months.
  • The study adds to the growing body of research on how wellness strategies can help people manage MS symptoms to feel their best. The authors suggest that future studies should test ways to provide home practice so that the positive impacts of meditation can be sustained well after the course ends.
  • The team (Cesare Cavalera, PhD, Francesco Pagnini, PhD, PsyD, and colleagues at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy) report findings in Multiple Sclerosis Journal (Published online February 27, 2018). This project was funded by a grant from the Italian MS Foundation.
DETAILS
Background: Psychosocial impacts of MS can adversely affect what is known as health-related quality of life (HRQOL) or a sense of well-being. Although the disease-modifying therapies for MS can impact the disease course, they do not usually cause significant improvement in an individual’s quality of life. Meditation has been shown to be psychologically beneficial, including as a stress reducer. For this study, investigators focused on whether a type of meditation, called mindfulness-based stress reduction, could improve well-being in people with MS. Meditation often involves an internal effort to self-regulate or slow the mind down, as a way to ease health concerns.
 
This Study: Investigators randomly assigned 139 people with MS to receive an online meditation course or an educational course combined with exercise. The meditation intervention consisted of eight weeks of a mindfulness-based stress reduction course, including music meditations, discussions about symptom acceptance, videoconferences with a trainer, and live sessions conducted through video-chat. The control group took an online course consisting of eight weeks of informational videos and home exercises.
 
The primary outcome that was measured was quality of life, and secondary outcomes included anxiety, depression, sleep measurements, and fatigue. These outcomes were measured after eight weeks, and after six months.
 
Results: Quality of life was significantly higher, and anxiety, depression, and sleep problems were significantly lower in the group receiving the meditation intervention at eight weeks, compared to those in the control group. These differences were not apparent after six months. Fatigue was not significantly reduced either following treatment or at six months.  
 
The team (Cesare Cavalera, PhD, Francesco Pagnini, PhD, PsyD, and colleagues at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy) report findings in Multiple Sclerosis Journal (Published online February 27, 2018). This project was funded by a grant from the Italian MS Foundation.
 
Comment:  The study adds to the growing body of research on how wellness strategies can help manage MS symptoms and help individuals feel their best. The authors comment on the fact that improvements in well-being were not maintained over time, noting that mindfulness-based stress reduction requires practice to obtain positive results. They suggest that future studies test ways to provide home practice so that the positive impacts of meditation can be sustained after the intervention ends.
 
Read More:
Read more about MS and mindfulness
Learn more about meditation from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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