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Meditation for adults with non-specific low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Larissa O. Soares , Giovanni E. Ferreira , Leonardo O. P. Costa , Leandro C. Nogueira , Ney Meziat-Filho and Felipe J. J. Reis ORCID logo EMAIL logo



We aim to determine the effectiveness of meditation for adults with non-specific low back pain.


We searched PubMed, EMBASE, PEDro, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO databases for randomized controlled trials that investigated the effectiveness of meditation in adults with non-specific low back pain. Two reviewers rated risk of bias using the PEDro scale and the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach. Primary outcomes were pain intensity and disability.


We included eight trials with a total of 1,234 participants. Moderate-certainty evidence shows that meditation is better than usual care for disability at short-term (SMD = −0.22; 95% CI = −0.42 to −0.02). We also found that meditation is better than usual care for pain intensity at long-term (SMD = −0.28; 95% CI = −0.54 to −0.02). There is no significant difference for pain intensity between meditation and minimal intervention or usual care at short and intermediate-term. We did not find differences between meditation and minimal intervention for disability at intermediate-term or usual care in any follow-up period.


We found small effect sizes and moderate-certainty evidence that meditation is slightly better than minimal intervention in the short-term for disability. Low-certainty of evidence suggests that meditation is slightly better than usual care for pain in the long-term. Meditation appears to be safe with most trials reporting no serious adverse events.

Corresponding author: Dr. Felipe J. J. Reis, Instituto Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Campus Realengo - Rua Carlos Wenceslau, 343, Realengo. CEP 21715-000, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil; Postgraduation Progam – Clinical Medicine Department of Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Pain in Motion Research Group, Department of Physiotherapy, Human Physiology and Anatomy, Faculty of Physical Education & Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium, Phone: +55 (21) 34634497, E-mail:

  1. Research funding: None to declare.

  2. Author contributions: Larissa Oliveira Soares (Data collection, data analysis and text). Giovanni Esteves Ferreira (Risk of Bias, text). Leonardo Oliveira Pena Costa (Final text review). Leandro Calazans Nogueira (Data collection, data analysis, Risk of Bias). Ney Meziat-Filho (Data analysis, Text Review). Felipe J. J. Reis (Data collection, Supervisor).

  3. Competing interests: Authors state no conflict of interest.

  4. Ethical approval and Informed consent: Not Applicable.

Appendix: Search strategy

#1 MeSH descriptor: [Back Pain] explode all trees
#2 Dorsalgia
#3 Backache
#4 MeSH descriptor: [Low back pain] explode all trees
#5 (Lumbar next pain) or (coccyx) or (coccydynia) or (spondylosis)
#6 MeSH descriptor spine explode all trees
#7 MeSH descriptor spinal diseases explode all trees
#8 (Lumbago) or (discitis) or (disc near degeneration) or (disc near prolapse) or (disc near herniation)
#9 Spinal fusion
#10 Spinal neoplasms
#11 Facet near joints
#12 MeSH descriptor intervertebral disk explode all trees
#13 Postlaminectomy
#14 Arachnoiditis
#15 Failed near back
#16 MeSH descriptor Cauda Equina explode all trees
#17 Lumbar near vertebra*
#18 Spinal near stenosis
#19 Slipped near (disc* or disk*)
#20 Degenerat* near (disc* or disk*)
#21 Stenosis near (spine or root or spinal)
#22 Displace* near (disc* or disk*)
#23 Prolap* near (disc* or disk*)
#24 MeSH descriptor sciatic neuropathy explode all trees
#25 Sciatic*
#26 Back disorder*
#27 Back near pain
#28 #1 or #2 or #3 or #4 or #5 or #6 or #7 or #8 or #9 or #10 or #11 or #12 or #13 or #14 or #15 or #16 or #17 or #18 or #19 or #20 or #21 or #22 or #23 or #24 or #25 or #26 or #27
#29 MeSH descriptor: [Meditation] explode all trees
#30 MeSH descriptor: [Mind-body therapies] explode all trees
#31 MeSH descriptor: [Spiritual therapies] explode all trees
#32 MeSH descriptor: [Relaxation therapy] explode all trees
#33 #29 or #30 or #31 or #32
#34 #28 and #33


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Supplementary Material

The online version of this article offers supplementary material (

Received: 2021-05-28
Accepted: 2021-08-12
Published Online: 2021-09-13
Published in Print: 2022-01-27

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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