In a study published in the
journal Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine (1998, 9(3):171-90)
researchers discovered that patients who used mind/body medicine practices
such as meditation tripled their chances of improvement over a 12 month
period, compared to patients who did not use such practices.
CFS is a neuro-immune disorder
characterized by debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and impaired
concentration. There is no medical cure, and the recovery process is usually
long, slow and unpredictable.
The study was conducted by
researchers from the Flowing River Institute in San Francisco and Northwestern
University Medical School in Chicago. Sixty patients were randomly assigned
to training and control groups. Those in the training group were taught
mindfulness meditation and a Chinese form of mind/body healing called chi
kung. To gauge improvement the researchers used the SF36, a standard health
status survey used widely in medical outcome research.
The researchers discovered
they could predict with 90% accuracy which patients would report improvement
in their health over 12 months and which would not. Surprisingly, the patient's
duration of illness did not matter. Also, being in the training group did
not by itself predict improvement since not all patients followed the recommendations.
For a minority of patients
-- the 15 who were the least severely ill -- improvement was likely regardless
of any other factors (87% reported improvement). For the remaining 45 patients,
however, whether they improved was accurately predicted by how often they
used a mind/body medicine practice. Those who used such a practice 3 or
more days per week were 2.7 times as likely to report improvement at 12
months than were those who did not (65% versus 24%).
Having good social ties seemed
to bolster the benefits of regular practice. Patients who practiced 3 or
more days per week and also had stronger social involvement in their lives
were 3.6 times as likely to report improvement at 12 months (87% versus
SIMILAR FINDINGS WITH OTHER
Research in mind/body medicine
has shown powerful impact in other diseases as well. David Spiegel, M.D.
at Stanford Medical School found that women with metastatic breast cancer
doubled their survival time with the help of social support and mind/body
medicine. Studies at UCLA Medical School have found improved survival rates
in malignant melanoma (a form of skin cancer), as well as reduced symptoms
in AIDS patients. Other studies have found similar benefits for heart disease
The results are summarized
in the model below. The degree of impairment, as reflected in the person's
current level of role functioning, predicts the extent to which meditation
practice is likely to alter the course of their health:
According to William Collinge,
Ph.D., the project's principal investigator, "This study shows that patients
have it within their power to influence the course of their illness. This
is all the more important in a disease for which there is no medical cure."
The researchers concluded
that patients with CFS -- and particularly those who are most impaired
in their roles at home or work -- should be strongly encouraged to adopt
a daily mind/body medicine practice of their choice, and involve themselves
in social support.
The study was sponsored by
Flowing River Institute, an private non-profit corporation that promotes
and supports the development of integrative and cross-cultural approaches
to contemporary issues of health and healing through research, training
and health education.
To download a PDF of the study click here.
Collinge W, Yarnold P, Raskin
E. Use of mind/body self-healing practice predicts positive health transition
in chronic fatigue syndrome: a controlled study. Subtle Energies &
Energy Medicine, 1998, 9(3):171-90.
William Collinge, Ph.D.,
M.P.H. is Director of Research for the Flowing River Institute.
Ellen Raskin is a certified
integral health educator and Executive Director, Flowing River Institute.
Paul Yarnold, Ph.D. is
Research Professor of Medicine, General Internal Medicine, Northwestern
University Medical School, Chicago IL; and Adjunct Associate Professor
of Psychology, University of Illinois, Chicago.
This study was funded in
part by a grant from the Stupski Family Fund to the Flowing River Institute,