Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionFibromyalgiaMindfulnessPain

Mindfulness meditation to relieve depression in women with fibromyalgia

In a letter to the editor several years ago, Dr. David von Weiss argued for consideration of mindfulness meditation when treating fibromyalgia.

As a family physician who taught mindfulness meditation, he found that patients with fibromyalgia were grateful for the improvement after learning this mind/body process.

A PubMed search on “mindfulness” and “fibromyalgia” disclosed only two clinical studies. Here’s what they report.

In 2003, 128 individuals with fibromyalgia were randomly assigned to 24 weeks of a mindfulness-training program or education and support, which served as the control.

  • Both groups improved compared to the start of the program.
  • But between the two treatments there was no difference in improvement in pain, depression, or other measures.
  • The researchers concluded that mindfulness training offered no additional benefit to simply educating patients and providing support.

Now, a new study reports that mindfulness alleviates depression in women with fibromyalgia.

  • 51 women with fibromyalgia and depressive symptoms were assigned to 2.5-hour sessions of mindfulness-based stress reduction weekly for 8 weeks
  • The sessions were moderated by a licensed clinical psychologist with mindfulness training.
  • 40 other women got no treatment.
  • Depressive symptoms improved significantly in the mindfulness group by the end of the program and at follow-up 2 months later.

The overall conclusion is that mindfulness training is better than nothing but not necessarily better than education and support. Yet, Dr. von Weiss’ experience is that mindfulness makes a valuable contribution to patient care.

What to do?

Perhaps Dr. Daniel Clauw from the Georgetown Medical Center in Washington DC can help. He says the “patient should be educated about the nondestructive nature of this condition, as well as the fact that meaningful improvement rarely occurs without active participation on the patient’s part — the patient must know that there is no ‘magic bullet’ for treatment.”

OK. Perhaps one logical strategy is to combine this commitment by the patient with a doctor who has an interest and expertise in mindfulness training as it applies to depression in patients with fibromyalgia.

Dr. von Weiss says that mindfulness meditation is taught at over 250 sites around the country. He recommends the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine as a resource. To find a program near you, I would recommend that you call them to get a reference.

2/17/07 18:58 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.