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Mindfulness Meditation for Fibromyalgia: Benefits & How Does It Help?

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain throughout the body. It also causes areas of tenderness, sleep and cognitive disturbances, fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain and diarrhea, sensitivity to noise, and many other symptoms. People with fibromyalgia are more sensitive to pain than people who do not have this condition.(1, 2, 3, 4, 5) In fact, fibromyalgia is today one of the most common chronic pain conditions in the world. According to estimates by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA), around ten million people in the United States are affected by fibromyalgia.(6)

In the olden days, fibromyalgia was thought to be a psychiatric disorder. However, today it is classified as a physical disorder.(7)

Some of the causes of fibromyalgia are believed to be:

  • Stressful or traumatic life events
  • Malfunctioning of the central nervous system
  • An imbalance in the neurotransmitters in the brain
  • Certain diseases
  • Repetitive injuries

Despite the physical causes of fibromyalgia, it has been found that people with the condition can benefit greatly by practicing mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is a meditation technique that helps you focus on the present moment. Mindfulness has been found to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including chronic pain, and also improve the overall quality of life of patients.(8)

Even with traditional treatment options, fibromyalgia is a tough condition to treat. The very best medications for the disease only help around a third of the people who are on them, and there is always a high risk of side effects.(9) At the same time, the dozens of unpredictable symptoms of fibromyalgia keep disrupting your life. In such a case, it is a good idea to turn to complementary and alternative treatment approaches like mindfulness meditation.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be defined in many ways, but the primary purpose of this form of meditation is to live in the present moment. Mindfulness can be described as a meditation technique that focuses on being aware of what is happening in the present moment. It is all about focusing your awareness on the present while observing everything in a detached manner without judgment.(10)

People who practice mindfulness regularly observe their own feelings and thoughts without passing judgment or reacting to them. They just let the feelings and thoughts float around their mind without deciding anything about them. The goal of this type of meditation is to increase the ability to:(11)

  • Think clearly
  • Remain calm
  • Manage stress throughout the day

Once you understand how to do it, it becomes possible to practice mindfulness anywhere at any time.

Can Mindfulness Meditation Benefit People With Fibromyalgia?

In people with fibromyalgia, pain is the one consistent part of their day. And once this happens, it is pretty easy to start focusing only on the pain. You begin to feel anxious and stressed about the pain you are feeling right now and think about the pain that is going to occur in the future.

Mindfulness meditation helps change the brain in such a manner that it provides benefits for people with fibromyalgia. There are many studies that have researched the connection between pain and mindfulness and have found positive results.

While research on mindfulness for fibromyalgia is still in its early stages, though most of it is very promising. Data presented at the 2016 Italian Consensus Conference on Pain in neurorehabilitation allotted an A grade for mindfulness interventions to be used for managing overall chronic pain. It also gave a C grade for fibromyalgia, specifically owing to the presence of smaller and lower-quality studies.(12)

Similar studies like this often face the challenge of issues like size, methodology, and bias. There have been several reviews of mindfulness research that have noted these shortcomings along with problems with inadequately described practices in pain management.(13)

A 2017 study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology concluded that mindfulness meditation helped participants with fibromyalgia achieve dramatic and long-lasting improvements in their symptoms, including:(14)

  • Improvement in pain perception
  • Improvement in sleep quality
  • Reduced psychological distress

Those participants who spent more time meditating experienced better results.

Mindfulness has also been shown to help in the following:

  • Prevent the central nervous system’s ability to feel pain.
  • Reduce distressing feelings and thoughts that are typically associated with persistent pain, which prevents these feelings and thoughts from worsening the pain.
  • It promotes body awareness, which helps in improved self-care.
  • It promotes deep muscle relaxation, which decreases irritability and tension.

Here are some other ways in which mindfulness helps against fibromyalgia.

How Does Mindfulness Meditation Help In Fibromyalgia?

There are several theories on how practicing mindfulness meditation helps relax the body and manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Here are some of the expert-proposed theories.

Mindfulness Affects the Nervous System

A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2012 suggested that mindfulness meditation helped calm the sympathetic nervous system, lowering stress levels and creating a more relaxed body.(15)

It Reduces The Severity Of Symptoms And Stress Levels

A clinical trial carried out in 2015 observed 91 women with fibromyalgia. Out of these 91, 51 women were assigned to participate in a program of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for a period of eight weeks.(16) These participants spent 2.5 hours every week doing certain exercises like yoga and attention-focusing techniques. The participants were also encouraged to practice these techniques at home for at least 45 minutes a day for six days a week. They were taught how to do this and given audiotapes and a workbook to jot down their progress.

In the 39 women who were part of the control group, fatigue and pain levels were analyzed regularly, and there was a lack of significant improvement in their symptoms at the end of the study.

However, 61 percent of the participants who were in the mindfulness program experienced reduced stress levels, while 75 percent reported a reduction in the severity of their symptoms.

These participants continued to experience the benefits of mindfulness even two months after the trial ended. The participants in this group who spent more days practicing the mindfulness techniques at home experienced greater relief in their symptoms.

These findings were seen to be in line with previous studies done on mindfulness and fibromyalgia, including:

  • A study from 2010 that found that people felt less pain and experienced a better quality of life after taking part in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program.(17)
  • A smaller 2007 study that found that women participants who completed an MBSR program and continued to practice mindfulness on their own experienced many benefits like reduced pain, depression and anxiety even three years after completing the program.(18)


When you get diagnosed with a chronic condition like fibromyalgia, it is natural to feel anxious, stressed, and depressed. The symptoms of fibromyalgia are known to fluctuate from week to week, day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour. The practice of mindfulness meditation can help in reducing the severity of your symptoms and also improve the quality of your life. Mindfulness therapy can combine techniques like meditation, daily mindfulness exercises, and yoga. Regular practice of these mindfulness techniques can help improve the fluctuating symptoms of fibromyalgia. Mindfulness also helps divert your attention away from the persistent pain caused by fibromyalgia while creating a bugger against some of the stress-related symptoms. So if you have fibromyalgia, you can consider trying out mindfulness meditation to get relief from your symptoms.


  1. Chakrabarty, S. and Zoorob, R., 2007. Fibromyalgia. American family physician, 76(2), pp.247-254.
  2. Häuser, W., Ablin, J., Fitzcharles, M.A., Littlejohn, G., Luciano, J.V., Usui, C. and Walitt, B., 2015. Fibromyalgia. Nature reviews Disease primers, 1(1), pp.1-16.
  3. Clauw, D.J., 2014. Fibromyalgia: a clinical review. Jama, 311(15), pp.1547-1555.
  4. Clauw, D.J., 2009. Fibromyalgia: an overview. The American journal of medicine, 122(12), pp.S3-S13.
  5. Goldenberg, D.L., Burckhardt, C. and Crofford, L., 2004. Management of fibromyalgia syndrome. Jama, 292(19), pp.2388-2395.
  6. The National Fibromyalgia Association. 2022. Fibromyalgia Prevalence: est. 10 million people in the U.S.. [online] Available at: <http://www.fmaware.org/about-fibromyalgia/prevalence/> [Accessed 26 February 2022].
  7. Fitzcharles, M.A., Shir, Y., Ablin, J.N., Buskila, D., Amital, H., Henningsen, P. and Häuser, W., 2013. Classification and clinical diagnosis of fibromyalgia syndrome: recommendations of recent evidence-based interdisciplinary guidelines. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013.
  8. Grossman, P., Tiefenthaler-Gilmer, U., Raysz, A. and Kesper, U., 2007. Mindfulness training as an intervention for fibromyalgia: evidence of postintervention and 3-year follow-up benefits in well-being. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 76(4), pp.226-233.
  9. Rao, S.G., 2002. The neuropharmacology of centrally-acting analgesic medications in fibromyalgia. Rheumatic Disease Clinics, 28(2), pp.235-259.
  10. Academic Mindfulness Interest Group, M. and Academic Mindfulness Interest Group, M., 2006. Mindfulness-based psychotherapies: a review of conceptual foundations, empirical evidence and practical considerations. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40(4), pp.285-294.
  11. Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L.E., Astin, J.A. and Freedman, B., 2006. Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of clinical psychology, 62(3), pp.373-386.
  12. Tamburin, S., Paolucci, S., Magrinelli, F., Musicco, M. and Sandrini, G., 2016. The Italian consensus conference on pain in neurorehabilitation: rationale and methodology. Journal of Pain Research, 9, p.311.
  13. Amutio, A., Franco, C., Pérez-Fuentes, M.D.C., Gázquez, J.J. and Mercader, I., 2015. Mindfulness training for reducing anger, anxiety, and depression in fibromyalgia patients. Frontiers in psychology, p.1572.
  14. Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Dunn, T.J., Garcia‐Campayo, J. and Griffiths, M.D., 2017. Meditation awareness training for the treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. British journal of health psychology, 22(1), pp.186-206.
  15. Vago, D.R. and David, S.A., 2012. Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 6, p.296.
  16. Cash, E., Salmon, P., Weissbecker, I., Rebholz, W.N., Bayley-Veloso, R., Zimmaro, L.A., Floyd, A., Dedert, E. and Sephton, S.E., 2015. Mindfulness meditation alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms in women: results of a randomized clinical trial. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 49(3), pp.319-330.
  17. Rosenzweig, S., Greeson, J.M., Reibel, D.K., Green, J.S., Jasser, S.A. and Beasley, D., 2010. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice. Journal of psychosomatic research, 68(1), pp.29-36.
  18. Grossman, P., Tiefenthaler-Gilmer, U., Raysz, A. and Kesper, U., 2007. Mindfulness training as an intervention for fibromyalgia: evidence of postintervention and 3-year follow-up benefits in well-being. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 76(4), pp.226-233.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 16, 2022

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