Immediate effects of a brief mindfulness body scan meditation on the nociceptive and autonomic nervous systems
Aim To measure the immediate effects of a brief mindfulness body scan meditation on self-reported pain, the nociceptive system and autonomic nervous system.
Study design A between-subject, repeated measures, double-blinded, randomised controlled trial, with experimental and control interventions. A 10-minute intervention period was followed by a 15-minute rest period.
Participants Thirty adults with chronic pain (7 men and 23 women) recruited through advertising in local papers, web-based social media and professional networks.
Interventions The experimental group followed a 10-minute audio recording of a mindfulness based body scan meditation. The control group listened to a 10-minute audio recording of text from an audio book in a pleasant, friendly voice whilst sitting quietly.
Main measures The primary dependent variable for self-reported pain was rating of pain severity on a visual analogue scale. The primary dependent variables for nociception were: pressure pain threshold recordings at a painful site and pressure pain threshold recordings at a non-painful site. The primary dependent variables for the autonomic nervous system were: mean heart rate, heart rate variability, heart rate variability low frequency to high frequency power ratio, and skin conductance.
Results There were no statistically significant differences between the group that listened to the experimental mindfulness tape and the group that listened to the control tape on any of the outcome measures.
Conclusion In people with chronic pain, a brief mindfulness body scan meditation has no effect on rating of pain severity on a visual analogue scale, pressure pain thresholds, mean heart rate, heart rate variability, heart rate variability low frequency to high frequency power ratio, or skin conductance when compared to a control group. Further research is required before determining whether brief mindfulness interventions are helpful in people experiencing chronic pain.