A first of its kind study have been performed by a team academics into the effectiveness of compassion meditation for treating the debilitating pain condition fibromyalgia, after Lady Gaga had to cancel her world tour as it has been reported in the headlines.
Researchers from Primary Care Prevention and Health Promotion Research Network, University of Derby, the Awake to Wisdom Centre for Meditation and Mindfulness Research in Italy, University of Zaragoza and Parc Sanitari Sant Joan de Déu in Spain assessed and compared Attachment-based Compassion Therapy (ABCT) with relaxation techniques for treating fibromyalgia for the study.
With more women than men diagnosed and affecting about 3% of adults in the UK and Europe the team ran the study with 42men and women split into two groups.
Compared to the relaxation control group, participants in the compassion therapy group demonstrated significant improvements across a range of psychological outcomes and reduced fibromyalgia symptoms by 36 percent overall.
Dr William Van Gordon, Lecturer in Psychology at University of Derby Online Learning, said: “The effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for fibromyalgia, such as anti-depressants, has long been questioned and can lead to unwanted side effects. The aim of this study was to investigate the use of compassion meditation as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia.
“Following the study, most participants in the ABCT group showed significant improvements and some no longer met the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia.
“As fibromyalgia is linked with sickness-related absence from work, incapacity to work, reduced work productivity and high usage of health-care resources, these results are not only meaningful for the sufferers but could help to address the problem of absence from work and the cost implications of this.”
Involving group sessions and homework assignments. Compassion meditation exercises were used to focus on cultivating a recognition and understanding of the universality of suffering, an emotional connection with others’ suffering, and motivation to act to alleviate suffering.
Using Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), an instrument developed to assess the current health status of women with fibromyalgia syndrome in clinical and research set settings. Fibromyalgia symptoms were measured before and after the trial using the FIQ
The control and compassion therapy group had and average FIQ score of over 60 before the start of the trial. A score of 59 or more corresponds to a severe level of fibromyalgia symptoms. After the study the control group FIQ score remained above 60 while the start of trial, both the compassion therapy group and control group had an FIQ average score of over 60 while the meditation group recorded an average score of 44 on the FIQ.
A reduction of at least 14% is deemed to be clinically important, but in this study the reduction in symptoms was in the order of 36% for fibromyalgia, 30% for psychological flexibility, 45% for anxiety, 54% for depression, and 38% for quality of life. While some symptoms were still likely to be present for participants in the ABCT group, they no were longer deemed to be severe.