A new study has found that mindfulness meditation for pain relief is a viable treatment.
The 28 participants in semi-rural Oregon underwent an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation for pain.
The study found that 89% of them experienced significant reductions in both pain and depression.
Testing whether mindfulness meditation for pain relief works in practice
For the present study, the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course led to significant improvement in the participants’ perceptions of pain, and also improved their mood.
Most (89%) of the 28 participants said that using meditation for chronic pain helped them cope better with their chronic pain.
Over the course of the eight-week period, the study participants were given instruction in mindfulness meditation and yoga.
The type of yoga used is known as “mindful hatha yoga.”
How do meditation and yoga help to relieve chronic pain?
Past research has shown that people who are in physical pain can still reap benefits from practicing mindfulness meditation, including reduced severity of the pain, less psychological distress, and greater feelings of control over one’s life.
Meditation is helpful in relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. And that matters, because all of these things have been shown to increase the intensity of chronic pain felt.
According to Cynthia Marske, the co-author of the current study, yoga and meditation help improve the body’s “structure and function.”
And these improvements in turn help foster the healing process.
The distinction between healing and curing
Here, Marske highlights the distinction between healing and curing.
Curing implies eliminating disease entirely, which is often unrealistic.
Healing, on the other hand, has more to do with learning to live with a manageable degree of pain.
And that is where innovative pain-relief treatments such as yoga and meditation can make great strides, as they are safe and do not involve pharmaceuticals.
In particular, MBSR is a promising example.
It is an educational program that revolves around training people to become aware of the self, in the present moment.
Novel treatments like meditation for chronic pain are sorely needed
Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for months at a time.
It is a surprisingly common (and serious) medical condition, and affects about 100 million people in the U.S. alone.
It also leads to annual costs of more than $600 billion.
In most cases, the chronic pain never fully disappears, leading many sufferers to despair.
Why people use mindfulness mediation for pain relief
Meditation is an ancient practice dating back over 5000 years.
As the current study suggests, more and more people are using it as a treatment for pain relief due to its many proven benefits.
As mentioned above, meditation is actually a physical practice that has been scientifically proven to help people with chronic pain, anxiety, and stress.
There are different techniques and types of meditation and finding the right one can be overwhelming. But there is no better way to start than by giving it a try in a safe setting.
The basic idea behind these studies is that by lessening physical and emotional suffering, people with chronic pain will be more able to manage their physical limitations more effectively.
Tips on how to meditate if you’re in physical pain
Physical pain can be difficult to handle. It can lead to distraction and taking your focus off of the meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to deal with chronic pain because it teaches you how to turn your attention inward and away from your pain while also teaching you how to accept it for what it is.
Here are some tips on how to meditate if you are in physical pain.
- The first step is adopting an open-minded attitude towards this form of treatment. It may not feel natural at first, but it’s worth giving it a try.
- The idea is that when your focus shifts towards the pain, you bring it back to the breath before it becomes too difficult.
- It’s important that when meditating with physical pain, make sure to find a comfortable position where both feet are on the ground and not dangling over the side of a chair or anything else for support. This will help prevent even more pain caused by sitting in one position for too long without changing positions.
Conclusion: mindful meditation for pain management seems to work
The study supported existing evidence showing that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a useful way of treating chronic pain.
It was also found to alleviate symptoms of depression.
MBSR can also be used together with other forms of treatment to relieve the pain caused by chronic medical conditions.
Even better is that it may remove, or at least diminish, the need for medicines.
In sum, the study’s authors write, meditation for pain relief “may be a viable modality for treating patients without the use of pharmacotherapy.”
Summary: A recent study has found that mindfulness meditation and yoga can be an effective way to manage chronic pain. The study concluded that practicing mindfulness meditation can reduce the severity of chronic pain, as well as provide relief from the psychological distress associated with it.
Study: “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction in the Management of Chronic Pain and Its Comorbid Depression“
Authors: Cynthia Marske, Samantha Shah, Aaron Chavira, Caleb Hedberg, Raelin Fullmer, Christopher James Clark, Olivia Pipitone, and Paulina Kaiser
Published in: Journal of Osteopathic Medicine
Publication date: August 12, 2020
Photo: by William Farlow on Unsplash
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