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Mindful awareness has been defined as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding experience, moment by moment.” Kabat Mindful awareness can be cultivated through training in sitting meditation, mindful body scan, walking meditation and mindful movement. Over the past 3 decades, a growing body of research has identified multiple health benefits from training in mindful awareness. Keng, Lakhan, La Cour One pilot study evaluated the feasibility and efficacy of an 8-week mindfulness program for patients with chronic pelvic pain. Fox Pre- and post-assessments included daily pain scores, the Short Form-36 Health Status Inventory, Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Score and the Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology. Upon program completion, participants reported significant improvement in daily maximum pain scores, physical function, mental health, social function and mindfulness scores. These pilot results are positive and promising.

In my experience, mindfulness gives patients the skillful awareness necessary to self-regulate their reactions to pain and stress. Many of these reactions are maladaptive and amplify distress and pain. With training in mindfulness, patients are able to observe physical, cognitive and emotional reactions to pain and stress and adopt healthy choices that de-escalate suffering. I am excited to share my 30 years of experience and training in mindful awareness and its application to patient care and provider self-care through my 2-day course with Herman & Wallace. Join me at "Mindfulness Based Pain Treatment: A Biopsychosocial Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain" on January 16-17, 2016 in Silverdale, WA.


1. Kabat Zinn, J.Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness. 2013, 2nd ed. New York: Bantam.
2. Keng, S.L., Smoski M.J., Robins, C.J. Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: a review of empirical studies. Clin Psychol Rev, 2011;31(6), pp. 1041-56.
3. Lakhan, S.E., Schofield, K.L. Mindfulness-based therapies in the treatment of somatization disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One, 2013;8(8), e71834.
4. La Cour, P., Petersen, M., 2014. Effects of mindfulness meditation on chronic pain: A randomized controlled trial. Pain Med, Nov 7. doi: 10.1111/pme.12605.
5. Fox, SD, Flynn E, Allen RH. Mindfulness meditation for women with chronic pelvic pain: a pilot study. J Reprod Med, 2011;56(3-4):158-62.

Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA is the author and instructor of "Mindfulness Based Pain Treatment: A Biopsychosocial Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain". Carolyn is a specialist in managing chronic pain, and has incorporated mindfulness meditation into her practice for more than 2 decades. Today she is sharing her experience by analyzing some of the most foundational research in the field of mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness awareness has been described as the sustained attention to present moment awareness while adopting attitudes of acceptance, friendliness and curiosity. (1,2) In patients with persistent pain, mindfulness has shown to reduce pain intensity, anxiety and depression and in improve quality of life. (3,4) Researchers suggest that mindful awareness may work through 4 mechanisms: attention regulation, increased body awareness, enhanced emotional regulation and changes in perspective on self. (5)

1. Attention Regulation: In chronic pan populations, improved attention regulation has been suggested to result in less negative appraisal of pain, greater pain acceptance and reduced pain anticipation. (6)

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This November, Herman & Wallace is thrilled to be offering a brand-new course instructed by Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA, called Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to Chronic Pain. This course will be offered November 15-16, 2014 in Seattle, WA. We sat down with Carolyn to learn more about her course.

The constant flood of information in today’s interconnected, wired world trains the mind in distraction and away from the immediate experience of life. Many people spend hours gazing down at quickly changing images on the small frame of an electronic device and only notice the body when it has its aches and pains! Mindful awareness offers us a skillful way to pay attention, build body awareness, touch life fully and provides a healing antidote to information overload.

Mindful awareness invites us to rest the mind in the present moment with openness, friendliness and curiosity. This is not our natural tendency and requires training. Often we are caught in a struggle with the present moment, perceive it as flawed, find fault with ourselves and constantly drive ourselves to run, do and achieve. When mindful, we still have our plans, goals and to-do list, but this is not an obstacle to resting the mind here and now. We can stop the struggle with the present moment, touch life fully and open to the potential for ease and insight in the midst of things just as they are. New perceptions and an experience of aliveness can occur that can never happen when we are lost in distraction. Danna Faulds expresses this beautifully in her poem "Walk Slowly":

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This post was written by H&W instructor Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA. Carolyn will be instructing the course that she wrote on "Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to the Treatment of Chronic Pain" in Seattle this November.

I have taught Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at Swedish Medical Center (SMC) since 1998. Over the years I have had many healthcare providers take the course and have long thought it would be wonderful to tailor a program specifically for healthcare professionals. I had the opportunity to do so this summer when, along with my colleague Diane Hetrick, PT, we designed and taught Mindfulness and Compassion Cultivation Training for physicians at SMC. The course was a great success. Physicians reported one of the most popular components of the program were our “on the spot” mindful practices. These are simple, easy-to-do strategies that any provider can employ to center, calm the body and steady the mind during a busy workday. They not only help reduce stress, but can influence brain activation to promote better decision making.

Research shows, under stress conditions, the amygdala activates stress pathways in hypothalamus and brainstem, evoking high levels of noradrenaline and dopamine release, impairing prefrontal cortex function. (1) Research also shows mindful practices reduce stress-related brain activity and improve executive functioning. (2, 3) I am delighted to share these powerful and practical “on the spot” mindful practices in my November course. My intention is for participants to have mindfulness skills to use for their own well-being the minute they walk in their clinic door on Monday.

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This blog was written by Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA, who will be presenting at the APTA's Virtual NEXT conference in North Carolina. Carolyn is instructing a new course with Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to Chronic Pain. This course will be offered November 15-16, 2014 in Seattle, WA.

We all know a highly stressed patient will have a more complicated and prolonged healing process than a non-stressed patient. Recent research is finally illuminating possible mechanisms causing the amplification of pain by stress. For example, stress has been shown to enhance muscle nociceptor activity in rats. (1) In this study, water avoidance stress produced mechanical hyperalgesia in skeletal muscle and a significant decrease in the mechanical threshold of muscle nocicpetors, a nearly two fold increase in the number of action potentials produced by a fixed intensity stimulus and an increase in conduction velocity from 1.25 m/s to 2.09 m/s! Researchers suggest these effects are due, at least in part, to catecholamines and glucocorticoids acting on adrenergic and glucocorticoid receptors on sensory neurons.

I always talk about this study with my patients who have persistent pain. It helps them understand that pain can escalate, not because of tissue damage, but because of the effects of stress hormones on their nerves. They understand that if they persist in escalating their stress reaction they will limit their healing potential. There is more research on this topic and strategies to help patients self-regulate their stress reaction that I look forward to discussing in my upcoming course in November.

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This November, Herman & Wallace is thrilled to be offering a brand-new course instructed by Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA, called Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to Chronic Pain. This course will be offered November 15-16, 2014 in Seattle, WA. We sat down with Carolyn to learn more about her course.

What inspired you to create this course?

I want to improve the lives of people with chronic pain and help my colleagues be successful in providing care to this often challenging patient population. With my academic training in both PT and psychology, my longstanding mindfulness meditation practice and over 25 years specializing in the care of people with chronic pain, I have a wealth of information and a wide range of practical skills to share with my colleagues.

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This blog was written by Carolyn McManus, PT, MS, MA, who will be presenting at the APTA's Virtual NEXT conference in North Carolina. Carolyn is instructing a new course with Mindfulness-Based Biopsychosocial Approach to Chronic Pain. This course will be offered November 15-16, 2014 in Seattle, WA.

Last fall, I was honored to receive an invitation from the APTA’s National Conference team to contribute to this year’s Virtual NEXT programming. Virtual NEXT offers live and on-demand streaming of annual conference's signature lectures and select educational sessions, worth up to 1.6 CEUs. New this year, you can purchase presentations individually. For the price of one registration, you and your colleagues can get together and be part of a worldwide Virtual NEXT viewing party!

The title of my presentation, to be delivered on Thursday, June 12th, is “The Pain Puzzle: Empowering Your Patients to Put the Pieces Together.” I will highlight basic chronic pain neurophysiology, and briefly discuss the brain in chronic pain, stress-induced hyperalgesia and the cognitive modulation of pain. I will describe how this current evidence affects our clinical practice and suggest evidence-based treatment strategies. These will include therapeutic pain neurophysiology education and mindful awareness training. I will close with a case study that demonstrates how our treatment choices must be based on an understanding of underlying pain generating mechanisms in order to achieve success with this complex patient population.

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