Meditation and Mind-body Practices for ADHD: A Concise Review

Non-pharmacologic treatments of ADHD

This is the 10th post in a series on complementary and alternative therapies for ADHD. This post comments on research highlights from studies on meditation and mind-body practices as treatments of ADHD. Previous posts briefly reviewed the evidence for a variety of non-pharmacologic treatments including herbals, EEG biofeedback, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary modification, acupuncture and others.

Study design problems and small study sizes make most findings inconclusive

In a systematic review of studies on meditation and mind-body practices (eg, yoga, tai-chi, qigong) as treatments of ADHD only four studies including a total of 83 participants met inclusion criteria for methodological rigor and size. Two studies evaluated mantra meditation and two studies compared yoga with conventional drugs, relaxation training, non-speci?c exercise or treatment as usual (i.e. stimulant medications and cognitive therapy). The authors reported that study design problems resulted in a high risk of bias in all studies and identified only one study that met criteria for formal analysis. In that small study (15 chlldren) the teacher rating ADHD scale failed to show significant outcome differences between the meditation group and the drug therapy group. The authors commented that small sample sizes of a few well designed studies and high risk of bias render current findings on meditation and mind-body techniques in the treatment of ADHD inconclusive.

Regular yoga practice may have an additive effect over medication alone

In a small pilot study ADHD children randomized to yoga experienced greater improvement over time compared to children who exercised. Children who continued on stimulants while practicing yoga experienced the greatest improvements. Two small controlled studies suggest that yoga and regular massage therapy may reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms.

Large well-designed studies are needed

Larger and better designed studies are needed to confirm beneficial effects of meditation and mind-body practices in individuals diagnosed with ADHD. To learn more about non-pharmacologic approaches to ADHD read my e-book ‘ADHD: The Integrative Mental Health Solution.”

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