The Development of Mindful-Based Dance Movement Therapy Intervention for Chronic Pain: A Pilot Study with Chronic Headache Patients

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Chronic pain is of significant global concern. There is growing evidence that body-mind therapies and psychological approaches can
contribute towards changing chronic pain perceptions. This is the first model described in the literature that combines a
mindfulness-based approach with dance movement therapy, and explores potential psychological and pain-related changes for this
client population. In this paper results from the pilot study are presented involving patients with chronic headache recruited in an
outpatient rehabilitation setting.
Methods: In this pilot study 29 patients (n=29) with chronic headache were randomized to either an MBDMT group or a waiting list
control group (TAU). The MBDMT group was offered ten sessions in a clinical outpatient rehabilitation setting for five weeks. Data
were collected pre- and post-intervention and 16 weeks after the intervention finished. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale
(HADS), Patient Health questionnaire (PHQ-9), Five Facets of Mindfulness questionnaire (FFMQ) and Numeric Pain rating scale (NRS)
were used as outcome measures.
Results: The working model of MBDMT identifies nine therapeutic mechanisms (safe therapeutic environment, mindfulness skills,
body awareness, relaxation / releasing, distancing and staying with discomfort, meaning making, self-regulation, acceptance and
integration, creative process). Per-protocol analysis reveals statistically significant reduction of pain intensity and depression
scores in favor of the MBDMT group and these improvements were maintained in follow-up assessment.
Conclusions: Results suggest that MBDMT is a feasible and promising therapy approach for chronic pain patients. The pilot study
offered sufficient information and preliminary results in the desirable direction to enable the researchers to move to an RCT stage
in order to establish the efficacy of the intervention.
Trial registration: the study was registered in the registry (5483).
Original languageEnglish
Article number587923
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Early online date16 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2021


  • dance movement therapy
  • mindfulness
  • chronic pain
  • anxiety
  • depression


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