Mindfulness-based programs may help improve symptom burden, disability and anxiety in children and adolescents with fibromyalgia (FM), a new study says.
In the study “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Adolescents With Functional Somatic Syndromes: A Pilot Cohort Study,” published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers investigated the benefits induced by two months of mindfulness training in younger FM patients.
“Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) involves meditation training, patient education, yoga exercises, and group support,” researchers wrote in the report. “The standard 8-week MBSR [program] for adults consists of weekly instructor-led group sessions (2.5 hours long with meditation practice, discussions, and skill-building activities), a full-day retreat, and 45-60 minutes of practice daily.”
Previous studies have shown that adults who practice mindfulness meditation experience less pain, anxiety and depression, and have better physical function. In children and adolescents, those exercises also may help reduce perceived stress and improve psychological health.
To determine whether mindfulness could be beneficial for FM children, the study enrolled 18 patients (aged 10 to 18 years) in a MBSR program for two months.
Both children and parents completed several questionnaires, such as the Functional Disability Inventory (FDI), the Fibromyalgia/Symptom Impact Questionnaire-Revised (FIQR/SIQR), the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale (MASC2), and the Perceived Stress Scale, at study’s start, and then at two and 12 months after the program. Participants also were interviewed after the program to assess several aspects related to it, such as feasibility, content and structure.
Of the initial group of 18 patients, only 15 completed the program, reporting no adverse effects. Researchers observed a significant improvement in the mean score of the FDI (33%), FIQR/SIQR (26%) and MASC2 (12% improvement in children’s reports and 17% in parents’ reports), compared to baseline.
Follow-up analysis showed that MASC2 scores (child and parent) and Perceived Stress Scale scores were significantly improved at one year after the program. Also, children who dedicated more of their time to practice at home had better outcomes in the FDI and FIQR/SIQR (44% and 26% improvement, respectively).
In the interviews carried out after the program, children and parents reported social support as a benefit of the MBSR class, as well as a positive impact of MBSR on activities of daily living, and on pain and anxiety.
Although the study has some limitations, such as the small number of participants and the lack of a control group, researchers concluded that “mindfulness mediation is an appealing and safe intervention that is feasible to deliver and was associated with clinically and statistically significant improvements in pain and functionality measures in this study.”