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Mindfulness Training May Help Arthritis Patients Cope
Date:12/20/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A small study finds that mindfulness training, which teaches people to push away troublesome thoughts, helped improve well-being in people with rheumatoid arthritis and similar diseases.

Patients in Norway who received the training didn't have less pain compared to those who didn't receive the training, but researchers found they coped better, were less tired and showed less stress.

"Yes, they still have pain, but they are able to manage their pain in more constructive ways," said study author Heidi Zangi, a graduate student at the National Resource Center for Rehabilitation in Rheumatology at Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Oslo.

Mindfulness training teaches people to "stay in the here and now," explained Stefan G. Hofmann, a professor of psychology at Boston University. "It keeps people in the present moment. The instructions are often to focus on breathing or present-moment awareness. As thoughts come into the mind, you just let them come and go without hanging on to them, without focusing on the future, without ruminating about the past."

Mindfulness isn't meditation, but the two are linked, Hofmann said, since "it's impossible to do meditation without doing mindfulness."

Zangi said there's only been limited research into how mindfulness affects people's abilities to cope with pain.

In the new study, researchers recruited 73 people aged 20 to 70 who suffered from inflammatory rheumatic joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Some participants took part in 10 group sessions, each 4.5 hours, that focused on teaching mindfulness; they got a booster session after six months. "Through exercises such as guided imagery, drawing, moving to music and use of poetry, participants are invited to process and express their emotions, releasing the energy that has been used to avoid or suppress them," Zangi said.

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