Mindfulness and Physiotherapy

We recently finished another round of the increasingly popular Physiopedia Volunteer Orientation Course. As part of the final assignment members were tasked to write an original piece of work to share with the profession, the contributions were of the highest quality. Below is the great piece of work written by Jagunath Selvanathan.

For my final year of university I had the opportunity to have a placement at the Great Ormond Street Hospital in Rheumatology. During in this time I was responsible for leading the rehabilitation gym sessions every day for paediatric patients with diagnosis such as MSK pain, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile dermatomyositis and scleroderma. It was an amazing experience to see the children become stronger and more confident over the rehabilitation program. One of the most important things I learnt on this placement was how influential mindfulness is in helping empower and treat patients. The use of mindfulness such as meditation and breathing techniques helped the children to manage their pain. Many of the children reported that they felt their pain improved when they carried out the mindfulness techniques.

Mindfulness[1] is a way of being and can be typically described as:

  • Paying attention to something you choose
  • Being in the present moment (and not the past or present)
  • Being non-judgmental- so you see things as they are

A 2019 meta-analysis[2] analysed the evidence from 21 previous studies involving 2,000 chronic pain sufferers. It was designed to assess whether mindfulness was as effective as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for relieving chronic pain and its associated distress. The study reported CBT can be effective and has none of the side-effects of traditional painkillers, such as lethargy and addiction. But, crucially, not everyone benefits from CBT. The new analysis suggests that mindfulness is just as effective as CBT when it comes to improving physical functioning. And both mindfulness and CBT were equally good at reducing pain and its associated conditions, such as depression.

Thus mindfulness is a very useful tool and vital tool that I believe is actually underused by many physiotherapists. I think as physiotherapists our focus is to help empower patients, hence the use of mindfulness should be used as a tool in our treatment services.


  1. Clinical update: Mindfulness [Internet]. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. 2019 [cited 3 March 2019]. Available from: https://www.csp.org.uk/frontline/article/clinical-updatemindfulness.
  2. Khoo EL, Small R, Cheng W, Hatchard T, Glynn B, Rice DB, Skidmore B, Kenny S, Hutton B, Poulin PA. Comparative evaluation of group-based mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive behavioural therapy for the treatment and management of chronic pain: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Evidence-based mental health. 2019 Feb 1;22(1):26-35.