A new study has discovered that injured athletes benefit from using mindfulness as part of rehabilitation to improve pain tolerance and awareness.

Every year there are 29.7 million injuries among athletes in the U.K. These have both psychological and physiological effects on athletes and for some it may mean the end of a career in sports.

To understand if mindfulness could play a part in injury rehabilitation, researchers at the University of Kent conducted tests on 20 athletes — 14 male, six female — between the ages of 21 and 36 who had severe injuries that prevented their participation in their sport for more than three months.

Both groups followed their normal physiotherapy treatment but the intervention group also practiced mindfulness meditation in one 90-minute session per week for eight weeks, the researchers explained.

A Cold Pressor Test (CPT) was used to assess pain tolerance. The perception of pain was measured using a Visual Analogue Scale. Other measurements used were the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), and Profile of Mood States (POMS).

The study’s findings demonstrated an increase in pain tolerance for the intervention group, as well as an increase in mindful awareness.

The researchers note there also was a promising change in positive mood for both groups. Regarding the Stress/Anxiety scores, findings showed a notable decrease across sessions.

The study used a common meditation technique based on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) during the recovery period of the injured athletes, according to the researchers.

Further research is required to assess whether increasing pain tolerance could help in the therapeutic process, the researchers said.

The study was published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Source: University of Kent