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Meditating Veterans

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

Ask someone about meditation and the likelihood is that they will picture a long-haired, cross-legged man humming in front of a sunset. However, this is not what it means to meditate. Meditation is a bridge for practising mindfulness. There are many different types of meditation, breathing being the most common.

Mindfulness is becoming globally renowned for positively impacting individual wellbeing and reducing the perception of pain. These two domains, wellbeing and happiness are commonly affected areas in those who have suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Thomas Harttung Nassif looked to investigate the effectiveness of a mindfulness based intervention for combat veterans with a TBI. Twenty-four Participants were collected from the DC Veterans Affairs Medical Centre, they were between the ages of 20 and 60 years old. During the screening for the study, participants were excluded if they did not have evidence of suffering from a TBI. Participants completed initial questionnaires before the implementation of the intervention to determine that the participants suffered from 'chronic' pain.

They then completed a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), a Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and an 11-point pain NRS which determined the intensity of pain experienced by the combat veterans. The intervention group consisted of the combat veterans taking part in the iRest mindfulness programme (2x 1 hour sessions per week) for 8 weeks.

The results showed that the scores on the VAS decreased in both intervention and control group, however the percentage reduction of pain intensity was much greater for the intervention group compared to the control group. The intervention group's decrease was suggested to be of 'moderate' (>30% decrease) clinical importance whereas the control group's decrease was deemed to be 'minimal' (<20% decrease). The results also showed a much greater average pain reduction for the intervention group (23.58%) compared the control group (4.88%). The decrease in pain intensity was also maintained at follow-up (4-weeks later) whereas the control group's changes in pain intensity were not.

The study suggests that the implementation of mindfulness in those with TBI has great benefits. Experiencing chronic pain is common in those with a brain injury so practising mindfulness may alleviate the perception of chronic pain leading to individuals with a brain injury focusing more on their rehabilitation. Teaching the skills for someone to self-manage their pain, anxiety or depressive thoughts has great implications for someone in rehabilitation.

The Neuro PT 'Mindfulness Group' integrates mindfulness based practice every week and allows individuals to work out what works for themselves best. The group also encourages individuals to talk about their experiences of mindfulness and how they may be utilising it to manage their pain, anxiety or depressive thoughts.


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