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J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Jun;16(6):627-31. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0372.

Intensive meditation for refractory pain and symptoms.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.



The objective of this study was to assess patient interest in intensive meditation training for chronic symptoms.


This was a cross-sectional anonymous survey among six chronic disease clinics in Baltimore including Chronic Kidney Disease, Crohn's Disease, Headache, Renal Transplant Recipients, General Rheumatology, and lupus clinic.


Subjects were 1119 consecutive patients registering for their appointments at these clinics.


Outcome measures were 6-month pain, global symptomatology, four-item perceived stress scale, use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, and attitudes toward use of meditation for managing symptoms. We then gave a scripted description of an intensive, 10-day meditation training retreat. Patient interest in attending such a retreat was assessed.


Seventy-seven percent (77%) of patients approached completed the survey. Fifty-three percent (53%) of patients reported moderate to severe pain over the past 6 months. Eighty percent (80%) reported use of some CAM therapy in the past. Thirty-five percent (35%) thought that learning meditation would improve their health, and 49% thought it would reduce stress. Overall, 39% reported interest in attending the intensive 10-day meditation retreat. Among those reporting moderate to severe pain or stress, the percentages were higher (48% and 59%). In a univariate analysis, higher education, nonworking/disabled status, female gender, higher stress, higher pain, higher symptomatology, and any CAM use were all associated with a greater odds of being moderately to very interested in an intensive 10-day meditation retreat. A multivariate model that included prior use of CAM therapies as predictors of interest in the program fit the data significantly better than a model not including CAM therapies (p = 0.0013).


Over 50% of patients followed in chronic disease clinics complain of moderate to severe pain. Patients with persistent pain or stress are more likely to be interested in intensive meditation.

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