Chronic pain can be reduced by practicing yoga and meditation, according to a new study from the American Osteopathic Association. Individuals who were trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) reported significantly lower levels of pain, depression, and disability.
An estimated 100 million people are affected by chronic pain in the United States alone, and the associated medical costs are estimated at $635 billion a year.
For the study, members of a semi-rural community in Oregon were trained in mindfulness meditation and mindful hatha yoga over the course of eight weeks.
“Many people have lost hope because, in most cases, chronic pain will never fully resolve,” said Dr. Cynthia Marske. “However, mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing.”
Dr. Marske explained that healing and curing are inherently different. “Curing means eliminating disease, while healing refers to becoming more whole. With chronic pain, healing involves learning to live with a level of pain this is manageable. For this, yoga and meditation can be very beneficial.”
The training led to significant improvement in the participants’ perception of pain, mood, and functional capacity. Nearly 90 percent of the volunteers reported that the program helped them find ways to better cope with their pain.
Mindful meditation and yoga was also effective in reducing depression. Based on the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), a standard measure of depression, the average symptoms dropped by 3.7 points on a 27-point scale.
“Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with depression. 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,” said Dr. Marske.
“The bottom line is that patients are seeking new ways to cope with chronic pain and effective non-pharmaceutical treatments are available. Our findings show meditation and yoga can be a viable option for people seeking relief from chronic pain.”
The study is published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.