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New Study Finds Yoga & Meditation Help Relieve Symptoms Of Chronic Pain

Woman doing yoga and meditation to relieve pain
Image by MATT BEN STONE / Stocksy
October 2, 2020

The benefits of mindfulness, yoga, and meditation are all pretty well established at this point—and research continues to find reasons to prioritize these practices. Most recently, a small study based in Oregon was able to help patients with chronic pain find relief, with a few months of yoga and meditation education.

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Helping patients take control of their pain.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course effectively helped participants with chronic pain.

The course included detailed instruction in both mindfulness meditation and hatha yoga, over the course of an eight-week period. They also learned about increasing awareness of the self and the immediate moment.

This study was conducted in a rural area where access to affordable care is a common problem, making relatively simple and low-cost mindfulness interventions ideal pain management aids.

Researchers found that patients' perceptions of their conditions shifted, with lower reported feelings of pain, depression, and disability following the course. "Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with depression," explains Cynthia Marske, D.O., an osteopathic physician and director of graduate medical education at the Community Health Clinics of Benton and Linn County. "Mindfulness-based meditation and yoga can help restore both a patient's mental and physical health and can be effective alone or in combination with other treatments such as therapy and medication."

The promise of relief.

The troubles of chronic pain extend beyond the pain itself, so finding a method that aids in both decreasing pain perception but also in improving mental health is doubly promising.

"Many people have lost hope because, in most cases, chronic pain will never fully resolve," says Marske, "However, mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing."

However, she's quick to explain that "healing" and "curing" are inherently not the same thing: "Curing means eliminating disease, while healing refers to becoming more whole," she explains. "With chronic pain, healing involves learning to live with a level of pain that is manageable. For this, yoga and meditation can be very beneficial."

Hoping to find your way to a regular mindfulness practice? The best way to do so is to stop simply planning to start and just take the first step.

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