The answer was inside us all the time and now studies are confirming that simple meditation practices and easy yoga exercises can take pain away by over 65%.
More than half your pain, gone! Poof! Almost like magic. And, so much safer than the pill form of pain relief.
“The coolest thing about this study was how the effects got stronger across the year,” said Fadel Zeidan, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Researchers assigned about half of the participants to receive eight weekly sessions of mindfulness-based stress reduction, involving meditation and yoga, and the other half to receive eight sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on helping people change the way they think about pain.
By the end of the eight-week course, 47% of people in the mindfulness group said their back pain was less disabling.
“Our results confirm what has already been found for (cognitive behavioral therapy), and we went beyond that to show this other mindfulness approach was equally effective for chronic back pain,” said Daniel C. Cherkin, a senior scientific investigator at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.
Training the brain to beat pain
Lifescript also shows that meditation physically changes the brain and reduces a chemical associated with stress, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say.
In another study, Michael Moskowitz, a psychiatrist turned pain specialist, concluded that the brain can be taught to respond differently to pain. What Moskowitz has added to our understanding of this ability of the mind to eliminate a particular pain is that constant mental practice is necessary to strengthen this ability and change the firing of the brain in a way that is sustained.
Unlike medication or placebo, the neuroplastic technique allows patients to reduce its use over time, once their networks have rewired. The effects last. Moskowitz has patients who have kept their gains for five years.
This means that if we put some time and training into teaching our brain to deal with pain differently through meditation and mindfulness techniques, once it has rewired itself we won’t need to continue the practices.
Unless we happen to like the other benefits of meditation such as inner peace and better stress management.
Change takes time
Yoga can be intimidating until you realize it is mostly stretching and increasing flexibility. Start with some beginning moves such as the ones shown in this video. Contact a personal trainer who specializes in therapeutic fitness, or a yoga studio that offers beginning classes.
In the Portland area, Quest Center for Integrative Health, offers classes in Yoga and Mindfulness for Chronic Pain.
The same with meditation – give it a chance. It’s not sitting there doing nothing. Think of it as a road trip: you’re going to be sitting there enjoying the landscape of your mind for a few minutes. 10 minutes a day is sufficient for a meditation practice.
The Basic Relaxation Breath
Breathing exercises help because give us something to focus on and induce relaxation.
This is a great breathing exercise and potent; several consistent repetitions are enough for the brain to begin producing feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin.
Inhale and exhale through the nose only; keep chest still. Bring breath down into the abdomen and inflate the abdomen on the inhale and deflate the abdomen on the exhale; the exhale wants to be long and slow; longer and slower than the inhale, however, if you’re grabbing for the inhale at the end of the exhale, shorten the exhale next time through until the transition from exhale to inhale is smooth.
There are no negative side effects – in fact, the side effects are positive: reduce pain, reduce stress and gain inner peace.
Now, this is health care!
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