A recently published meta-analysis by the UConn Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP) is the first-ever to explore the use of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness-based interventions for the effective treatment of chronic concussion symptoms, according to a press release.

“This was really a passion project for me in the sense that it combines these two areas of interest, concussion work with yoga and meditation,” said lead study author Rebecca Acabchuk, PhD, in a press release. “We know from other studies that yoga and meditation may be helpful for reducing systemic inflammation, and we know that they are helpful for increasing self-compassion and reducing rumination if people are dealing with symptoms of depression.”

The meta-analysis examined data from 22 different studies, including both published and unpublished work, which included a total of 539 participants and explored the impact of the 3 interventions on outcome categories, including mental health, physical health, cognitive performance, quality of life, and social/occupational performance. Further, specific health outcomes were also analyzed, including depression, attention, anxiety, and fatigue.

The analysis found that mind-body interventions consistently provided symptom improvement across nearly all measured outcomes. Additionally, the trends were remarkable due to the variety of patients enrolled in the studies, with the known difficulty of relieving chronic concussion symptoms, according to the study authors.

The study authors noted that larger studies are needed to further investigate the benefits of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness in concussion treatment plans. Future studies will also help researchers and the general public understand the mechanisms by which these types of interventions promote healing and reduce concussion symptoms.

The most important data to come out of yoga, meditation, or mindfulness practice as part of a treatment plan for a mild traumatic brain injury appears to involve no adverse effects for the patient.

“Think of the brain almost like an ACL—if you tear your ACL, you’re going to rest it, but you’re also going to take steps to rehabilitate it,” said researcher Rebecca Acabchuk in a press release. “If you think of the brain in that sense, a concussion is also like a rehabilitation injury in that, through rehabilitation, you can strengthen certain pathways in the brain. And we think the tools to help do that are breath-work, meditation, and mindful movement through poses from yoga.”

Acabchuk added that starting with a mediation app online or online meditation group to learn the basics or setting aside time to meditate 10 minutes a day can be a step in the right direction.

“If you’re too tired at the end of the day, maybe a simple body scan with deep breathing exercises would be better for you. It’s not going to be a miracle cure, but more of something that can provide benefits over time by incorporating these tools into daily life. I really do hope that this helps empower people who are struggling with their symptoms,” she said in a press release.

UConn Researchers: First Meta-Analysis Shows Promise for Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness in Concussion Treatment Plans. UConn. https://today.uconn.edu/2020/11/uconn-researchers-first-ever-meta-analysis-shows-promise-yoga-meditation-mindfulness-concussion-treatment-plans/#. Published November 30, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.