A randomised controlled trial to test the feasibility of online mindfulness programs for people with multiple sclerosis

Jennifer Dunne, Hui Jun Chih, Andrea Begley, Alison Daly, Regina Gerlach, Robert Schütze, Emily Castell, Jean Byrne, Lucinda J Black
Multiple Sclerosis and related Disorders 2020 December 29, 48: 102728

BACKGROUND: Practicing mindfulness may improve mental health and reduce pain in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Since participating in face-to-face mindfulness programs can be challenging for people with MS, exploring alternative ways of delivering these programs is necessary. The objective of this trial was to assess feasibility of two different eight-week online mindfulness programs across five domains: recruitment, practicality, acceptability, integration of mindfulness practice, and limited efficacy testing on mental health, quality of life and pain.

METHODS: In a three-arm randomised controlled mixed-method trial, participants were assigned to: 1) Mindfulness for Multiple Sclerosis (M4MS) (n=18); 2) Chair Yoga (n=18); or 3) wait-list control group (n=19) for eight weeks. Daily home practice diaries and weekly reflective journals were collected along with online questionnaires at baseline and post-intervention. Feasibility was assessed using descriptive statistics, multilevel mixed-effects regression, and content analysis.

RESULTS: Online recruitment, online program delivery and online data collection were all found to be feasible. The sign up rate was 65% and overall, 87% of the participant completed the eight-week online programs. The programs were perceived as practical and acceptable by the participants. Integration of mindfulness practice into daily life varied, with time and fatigue reported as common barriers to practice. No statistically significant differences in efficacy measures were found among groups (p>0.05).

CONCLUSION: Online mindfulness programs are feasible and acceptable for people with MS. This study provides useful insights for future trials when designing online mindfulness programs for people with MS.

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