Insight meditation found to relieve psoriasis, anxiety

Medical Post
David Hodges
05-16-2000

Combining yoga, meditation, body scans and dharma talks as treatment shows success TORONTO - Evidence is being gathered to suggest that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)-a form of insight meditation-may reduce psoriasis.

Research presented at the meeting here suggested that MBSR intervention enhanced rates of skin-clearing in patients with psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA).

MBSR is a program which consists of a combination of meditation, yoga, body scan (a type of relaxation training protocol) and dharma talks (lectures that encourage a sense of peace and feelings of love).

Findings for the psoriasis study came from an article published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in which 37 patients were assigned to receive UVB and PUVA therapy for the treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis. Patients were divided into two groups, in which some received MBSR and others did not.

At 125 days, both of these groups had attained the same rate of skin clearing, but it was noted that the intervention group who received the MBSR treatment got better much more quickly than those patients who did not receive the MBSR treatment.

How this effect works, however, is not clear.

"Basically speaking, we don't know," said Dr. Greg Dubord, director of the Canadian branch of the National Council for Reliable Health Information and founding director of the Rational Alternative Medicine (RAM) Institute.

"Most of this mind/body stuff is speculation, and we really don't know the exact intervening steps." Nonetheless, MBSR is working quite well, he added.

Other studies involving MBSR have shown a 50% reduction in chronic pain and anxiety, Dr. Dubord said.

In one such study that examined the clinical use of MBSR for the self- regulation of chronic pain in 90 chronic pain patients, researchers reported that statistically significant reductions in a variety of pain-related measures were seen among patients receiving MBSR while a control group showed no improvement.

Followup of 2.5 to 48 months showed good compliance among the patients who received MBSR, and that gains were maintained.

Another study designed to determine the effectiveness of MBSR in the treatment of patients with generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder with or without agoraphobia showed significant reductions in anxiety and depression scores after treatment for 20 of the 22 patients involved in the study; no control group was used. A three-year followup of 18 of the 22 original subjects showed that gains were maintained.

Today, MBSR is being used and studied in various centres around the world, particularly in North America, Dr. Dubord said.

The Buddhist meditation practice is used in a number of centres in Toronto, including mainstream centres such as the Toronto Hospital where there is an MBSR clinic, he added.