Mindfulness-based Meditation Improves ALS Patients’ Lives, Study Shows

Margarida Azevedo, MSc avatar

by Margarida Azevedo, MSc |

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Meditation and ALS

An eight-week mindfulness-based meditation program improved the quality of life and psychological well-being of patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a study reported.

The randomized, open-label, controlled clinical trial covered 100 patients recruited between November 2012 and December 2014. All were diagnosed with ALS at least 18 months before the trial.

The research, “Meditation training for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: a randomized clinical trial,” was published in the European Journal of Neurology.

Researchers asked 50 of the patients to stick to their usual care regimen. The other 50 were asked to take eight weeks of  meditation training.  The trainers tailored a widely used mindfulness stress-reduction program to people with ALS.

The clinical trial’s primary measure was quality of life, as assessed by the ALS-Specific Quality of Life Revised Scale (ALSSQoL-R). A secondary measure was anxiety and depression, assessed by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. All participants were evaluated at recruitment, at two months, six months and 12 months.

The two groups showed significant differences in both quality of life and measures of anxiety, depression, negative emotions and interaction with people and the environment.

All meditation participants scored higher on evaluation questionnaires. They also reported feeling less anxious and depressed. The results held during a 12-month follow-up period.

“The ALS [meditation programme] is safe and easy to implement, as it can be conducted by trained personnel and does not require additional instruments. It can be integrated in current multidisciplinary care and may represent a new way to enhance the QOL [quality of life] in people with ALS,” the researchers wrote.

“There has been very limited investigation on psychological interventions that can promote quality of life in people with ALS. I found that very strange, as we are not able to cure the disease, but we all agree that the promotion of quality of life is the current main goal in ALS cases,” Francesco Pagnini, the lead author of study, said in a press release. “This is the first controlled trial in this field, suggesting that a mindfulness-based intervention can be a very important tool to increase the well-being of people with ALS.”