April 16, 2018

Clinical trial finds online meditation course improves short-term well-being in MS

Summary: Online mediation training, involving 139 people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), improved quality of life (QoL) and lowered depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Background: Depression, anxiety, and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms of MS that can interfere with QoL. While disease-modifying therapies for MS can impact the disease course, they usually do not result in a significant improvement in an individual’s QoL. Researchers are turning to wellness approaches to reduce the impact of MS symptoms and thereby increase QoL.

Objective: A clinical trial, led by a team of researchers, including Cesare Cavalera and Francesco Pagnini and colleagues from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy, investigated whether a type of meditation called mindfulness-based intervention could improve well-being in MS. The results were recently published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal .

The Intervention: Investigators recruited 139 people with either RRMS and SPMS who were randomly assigned to eight weeks of an online mindfulness meditation course or an online educational course.The online mindfulness meditation course included music meditation, home exercises, and discussion on symptom acceptance while the educational course included informational videos on MS and home exercises.

The Outcomes: The primary outcome measured QoL using a QoL questionnaire. Secondary outcomes included fatigue, anxiety, and depression as well as sleep measurements.These outcomes were assessed at recruitment, at two months (end of intervention) and at six months.

The Results: Higher QoL and lower anxiety, depression and fewer sleep problems were reported by participants assigned to the meditation course compared to people assigned to the educational course after two months of therapy. However, these differences were not maintained at six months. Fatigue was not altered by either intervention at two or six months.

Comment: The researchers comment that mindfulness meditation is a time-demanding intervention and that continued practice may be needed to sustain the positive effects seen at two months.

MS Society wellness initiatives

The MS Society recognizes the interest of the MS community in more wellness approaches that might improve health and QoL for people affected by MS. The Society is funding three wellness studies that explore options for accessing physical activity for people living with MS. Information on these studies can be found here. Also, the MS Society reached out to experts and those living with MS to create an MS Wellness Toolkit - filled with strategies to help those living with MS.


Cavalera C et al. (2018) Online meditation training for people with multiple sclerosis: A randomized controlled trial. Multiple Sclerosis Journal. [Epub ahead of Print]