A Session of Mindfulness a Day Helps Keep the Pain Away
Around 25.3 million people in America faces chronic pain every day and if you are one of them, then you know the extent to which pain can interfere with your ability to function at work or school, and to interact with others socially. Although many medications exist to treat pain, these have side-effects and in some cases, can be addictive. Therefore, doctors across the globe are working to find holistic, natural means to combat pain. One activity that has enjoyed great success for a host of conditions causing pain, is mindfulness – the state of ‘being in the here and now’. Whether pursued through meditation, yoga, or T’ai Chi, it helps us dissociate from our pain, realizing that nothing is permanent; we will have good days and bad but we don’t have to let pain define us.
Mindful People Feel Less Pain
A study by scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that there is an important reason why some people feel less pain than the general population: they are more mindful! Mindfulness, explained the researchers, means being aware of the present moment – your thoughts and emotions (even difficult ones) without being reactive or judgemental. The study used magnetic resonance imaging on participants, finding that people who were more mindful had less activation in a part of the brain associated with pain. The researchers are confident that mindfulness can be an effective complementary therapy for people with pain, and best of all, even short periods of mindfulness training have powerful results.
Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Lower Back Pain
Although enjoying a generally mindful state enables us to weather pain more optimally, studies have also shown that mindfulness can be used to alleviate specific types of pain. One, published in The JAMA Network Journals, showed that adults with chronic lower back pain enjoyed better progress when undergoing mindfulness-based stress reduction training and receiving cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), compared to when they the usual care for lower back pain. The findings make sense considering the fact that we already know that stress exacerbates our perception of pain.
Mindfulness and Oral Pain
It is amazing to think that oral pain (caused by tooth and gum disease, decay, tooth loss etc) is so rampant. For instance, research shows that almost 50% of Americans aged 30 and above suffer from gum disease. If you do have gum disease and you need to have implant or other dental surgery, one way to reduce the stress and alleviate pain, is to take up a mindful pursuit. One study on patients with periodontal (gum) disease showed that although yoga (a deeply mindful activity) does not directly improve the state of our gum health, it does significantly reduce stress, therefore lowering the perception of pain.
Mindfulness and Fibromyalgia
Studies have also shown that mindfulness pursuits like yoga can reduce fibromyalgia-related pain. One study conducted at Oregon Health & Science University found that yoga successfully reduced many symptoms of this disease, including pain, stiffness, depression, and poor sleep. Yoga has also been found to reduce headaches, which are another symptom of fibromyalgia. Therefore, researchers believe it can be a useful complementary therapy for this prevalent condition.
Whether you are battling back pain or headaches, mindfulness in your daily life may help you reduce the intensity of pain and feel more positive about life. Mindfulness involves little more than giving oneself to the present moment. You may choose to do this through yoga, meditation, or T’ai Chi but the sooner you start living in ‘the spectacular now’, the better!