Forgiveness Linked to Less Back Pain

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Nov 01, 2005

Loving-kindness meditation, an ancient Buddhist practice used to develop love and to transform anger into compassion, eased back pain in chronic sufferers taking part in a pilot study at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Forty-three subjects were randomly assigned to either the meditation intervention or usual care. Standardized measures assessed patients’ pain, anger and psychological distress. Poststudy and follow-up analyses showed significant improvements in pain and psychological distress in the loving-kindness group, but no changes in the usual-care group. Anger levels fell in those who meditated.

The loving-kindness technique involved cultivating compassion both for loved ones and for those whom participants felt had harmed them. “In chronic back-pain patients, anger is a strong predictor of daily functioning,” said study co-author Jim Carson, prior to the study. “If we can help them let go of some of their anger . . . , we can help them regain function.”

“Our rationale is that the anger we all hold toward wrong-doers and ourselves negatively affects physical pain and psychological well-being,” said research assistant Ann Aspnes. “Pain medications are extremely helpful, [but they] have their own limits and side effects and expense.”

The researchers concluded that clinicians may find loving-kindness meditation helpful in the treatment of patients with persistent pain.

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at