Mindfulness could work as a treatment for sufferers from chronic pain, according to a new study.

A new study carried out by staff at The Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, Canada has found that mindfulness, a combination of meditation and psychological training as practised by Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna, eases discomfort and reduces the risk of depression.

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The new research found that the trend may be more than just a celebrity fad, as it had similar effects to the commonly prescribed treatment cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which focuses on challenging unhelpful behaviours or attitudes but is ineffective for some patients.

The researchers, led by biostatistician Dr Wei Cheng, studied clinical trials looking into the effectiveness of CBT and mindfulness-based treatment lasting at least three months and in some cases more than 10 years, with the majority of those studied women between 35 and 65 suffering from musculoskeletal pain. Both treatments showed a similar improvement in “physical functioning” and alleviating associated symptoms, like depression, compared with no care.

“Although a number of recommendations have been proposed to improve CBT for patients with chronic pain, an additional solution may be to offer patients mindfulness-based stress reduction since it shows promise in improving pain severity and reducing pain interference and psychological distress,” the study’s authors wrote in the journal Evidence-Based Mental Health.

Explaining how the meditation technique works on Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) website, Professor Mark Williams of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre said it is about “reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience” and “allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly”.

Despite the positive early findings, the Ottawa Hospital experts cautioned that further research is needed as only one of the studies assessed directly compared CBT and mindfulness, and it is unclear which psychological and physical symptoms are best treated by each technique.

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