Purpose: The importance of improved physical function as a primary outcome in the treatment of chronic pain is widely accepted. There have been limited attempts to assess the effects mindfulness skills training (MST) has on objective outcomes in chronic pain care.
Methods: This systematic review evaluated published reports of original randomized controlled trials that described physical function outcomes after MST in the chronic pain population and met methodological quality according to a list of predefined criteria. PRISMA criteria were used to identify and select studies, and assess their eligibility for inclusion. The established guidelines for best practice of systematic reviews were followed to report the results.
Results: Of the 2,818 articles identified from the original search of four electronic databases, inclusionary criteria were met by 15 studies published as of August 10, 2015, totaling 1,199 patients. All included studies used self-report measures of physical function, and only two studies also employed performance-based measures of function. There were wide variations in how physical function was conceptualized and measured. Although the quality of the studies was rated as high, there was inconclusive evidence for improvement in physical function assessed by self-report due to contradiction in individual study findings and the measures used to assess function. Strong evidence for lack of improvement in physical function assessed via performance-based measures was found.
Conclusion: This review draws attention to the importance of having a unified approach to how physical function is conceptualized and assessed, as well as the importance of using quality performance-based measures in addition to subjective self-reports that appropriately assess the physical function construct within MSTs for chronic pain.
This relevant review will definitely help us decide which disorders and patients might benefit from mindfulness skills training. Hopefully, these and other similar results will help us avoid indiscriminate use of mindfulness.
This study highlights the need for a greater degree of uniformity in our conceptualization of chronic pain. I would have appreciated more comment on the role of civil litigation of these results.
The lack of consistency in the methodology of studies in this area underscores the need for more standard treatments and measures.