Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island
Mindfulness Study for Chronic Pain
Researchers at the Providence VA Medical Center are investigating how mindfulness-based care benefits Veterans who suffer from chronic lower back pain.
“This work is an important step towards improving outcomes of this and other related mind-body interventions, by helping to understand how they work in the brain,” said Dr. Benjamin Greenberg, associate director of the VA Center for Neuroresto-ration and Neurotechnology, which is located on the Providence VAMC campus.
Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique that focuses the patient’s awareness on the present moment, acknowledging and accepting feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations. Some research suggests the technique can reduce stress and emotional reactions. Use of the therapy continues to grow as VA and other health care organizations seek alternatives to opiates and other medications for managing chronic pain.
The purpose of the study is to learn how the brain changes in response to mindfulness training by enrolling 30 Veteran participants who will receive eight weeks of mindfulness training in weekly two-hour sessions. The participants will undergo magnetic resonance imaging, known as MRI, and an electroencephalogram, known as EEG, before and after completion of the training.
The MRI uses powerful magnets and a computer to make detailed pictures from inside body, while the EEG records the brain’s electrical activity.
“We will look at the EEG and MRI data alongside disability rating scales,” said Greenberg. “We think the data will change in predictable ways that can help providers refine their use of mind-body therapies to treat not only chronic back pain, but a wide range of issues.”
One cohort of Veterans has run through the eight-week mindfulness course and the study is currently running a second cohort.