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Meditation for Pain. Part One. By Our October Student Pharmacist, Andrea Lee.

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Did you know that meditation can relieve pain in your body? 

You may have heard the word “meditation” and confused it for a religious ritual. However, meditation can actually be an every day activity that has health benefits. Meditation can also contain a spiritual component where you build a habit to harness mindfulness and awareness of your physical body.

Meditation is not complicated or supposed to be an esoteric activity restricted to a religion. It can be as simple as becoming aware of your own breath in and breath out.   

Mirriam Webster defines meditation as a way “to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing […]) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”

For health benefits, meditation is the simplest way to develop mindfulness. Developing mindfulness can directly benefit increasing your pain tolerance and emotional and physical acceptance of pain.  

Today, we will delve into exactly how meditation may benefit you in relieving pain symptoms you may experience.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

I have a family history of arthritis and was diagnosed with an early onset of arthritis in my right knee. Unfortunately, because I was afraid to make things worse when I walk or run, the new way that I walked after my diagnosis resulted in new pain that developed in the joints of my pelvis. Since then, I have practiced meditation as a way to become aware of my body, how I walk in a way that doesn’t worsen my new pain, and to lessen my overall pain in my hip and knee from day to day.

How do you do it?

Here are easy first steps to start a meditation practice to help build mindfulness:

  • First pick a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for about 30 minutes.
  • Wear comfortable clothing.
  • Sit straight up either supported by a chair or Indian style.
  • You may also lay down or lay at a slight incline.
  • Close or relax your eyelids.
  • Take a deep breath in and notice the cool sensation and think “in”.
  • Then exhale and notice the warm sensation and think “out”.
  • Breathe normally, but maintain the thoughts “in” when you breathe in and “out” when you breathe out.
  • Do this for about six breaths. Slowly open your eyes and allow yourself to come out of concentrating on your breath only.

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques have already been used in hospitals, doctors offices, and clinics as evidence-based treatment for improvement in pain patients with chronic and acute symptoms.  

MBSR falls under non-medication-based treatment options that are named “mind-body” approaches to dealing with pain.  This approach “focuses on increasing awareness, acceptance of [present] moment experiences including physical discomfort and difficult emotions.” Meditation is a technique that can help you build and further develop mindfulness.

Now that you have a brief introduction on how to start meditating, please check back for a second part to this series where we talk about how MBSR works in the body and tips to address common problems you may run into after the first few tries.

Resources:

Cherkin DC, Sherman KJ, Balderson BH, et. al. Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction vs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Usual Care on Back Pain and Functional Limitations in Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016 Mar 22-29;315(12):1240-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.2323. http://jamanetwork.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/journals/jama/fullarticle/2504811. Accessed October 11 2017.

Chiesa A, Serretti A. Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE
Volume 17, Number 1, 2011, pp. 83–93 DOI: 10.1089/acm.2009.0546

Morone NE, Greco CM, Moore CG. A Mind-Body Program for Older Adults With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2016 Mar;176(3):329-37. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.8033. http://jamanetwork.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2495275. Accessed October 12 2017.

Zeidan F, Emerson NM, Farris SR, .Mindfulness Meditation-Based Pain Relief Employs Different Neural Mechanisms Than Placebo and Sham Mindfulness Meditation-Induced Analgesia. J Neurosci. 2015 Nov 18;35(46):15307-25. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2542-15.2015. http://www.jneurosci.org.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/content/35/46/15307.long. Accessed October 10 2017. 

Zeidan F, Gordon NS, Merchant J, Goolkasian P. The effects of brief mindfulness meditation training on experimentally induced pain. J Pain. 2010 Mar;11(3):199-209. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.07.015. Epub 2009 Oct 22.
http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy.lib.ohio-state.edu/science/article/pii/S1526590009006919 Accessed October 11 2017

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