Using Mindfulness Meditation to Improve Pain Management in Combat Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

Thomas H. Nassif, PhD; Deborah O. Norris, PhD; Karen L. Soltes, LCSW; Friedhelm Sandbrink, MD; Marc R. Blackman, MD; Julie C. Chapman, PsyD
Published:2015

Introduction

Pain conditions are the most frequently reported health concern in Veterans who served in Afghanistan (OEF) or Iraq (OIF) (1,2) and are highly comorbid with traumatic brain injury (TBI) (3). However, availability of specialized pain care is limited and few treatment options have been found to be effective for long-term management of chronic pain (4). This pilot study examined the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation (MM) for managing chronic pain in OEF/OIF Veterans who sustained a TBI during deployment.

Integrative Restoration Yoga Nidra (iRest®) is a type of MM that promotes deep relaxation through breathing, guided imagery, and progressive relaxation. iRest is provided at Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals nationwide, but little data exists to support the health benefits. This is the first study to research iRest for chronic pain after TBI.

This study examined whether iRest relieved chronic pain more effectively than standard care alone. Based on prior research on the benefits of MM for chronic pain (6,7), we hypothesized that iRest would lower perceived pain by >20% and ameliorate pain-related symptoms as indicated by reports of ‘somewhat’ to ‘completely’ improved’ for specific symptoms and ‘moderately better’ to a ‘definite improvement’ for quality of life.