A cure for pain. Explorers and entrepreneurs, eager for relief have reached around the globe to dull discomfort: plants, prayers and chemicals of all kinds have been used for millennia. We’ve scoured the planet, looking forever outward: but have we forgotten something? Mass-prescribed opiates mask symptoms without treating the cause of pain. Recently, more people who want to manage the true symptoms of pain have turned inward to unlock the power within their own minds.
A recent study encouraged patients with chronic pain to harness the power of their own minds by taking Mindfulness-based stress reduction training (MBSR). Wait, isn’t mindfulness just some trend with yoga and meditation? Nope, it’s “an eight-week evidence-based program that offers secular, intensive mindfulness training to assist people with stress, anxiety, depression and pain.” Mindfulness isn’t a groovy trip to incense and peppermints: you’ve gotta work for it. Read on to see if it’s worth it.
The results of recent research are in: mindfulness for managing pain is a real thing: “more than half of chronic pain patients who completed MBSR training experienced at least a 33% reduction in their current pain and general body problems.” This means, without pills or opiates of any kind, a majority of the patients with chronic pain felt relief from pain.
Importantly, this study recognized that patients and health care professional frequently have “arguments over whether continued use of opioids is helpful.” Furthermore, the study suggests that both patients and health care officials tend to “ignore the true mind-body nature of such complex syndromes” and focus on the pill refill. Most excitingly, the research suggests that “integrating mindfulness-informed approaches into the treatment plan has the potential to reduce focus on the prescription pad and replace it with active engagement in a framework of mind-body healing.”
But how does mindfulness work? Basically, mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment, allowing the mind’s natural thoughts, feelings and sensations to be recognized. In MBSR training, people are guided to “consciously and systematically working with the challenges and demands of your everyday life and the instructors create a safe and supportive environment for this work and learning.” There are many ways to take MBSR training: you can find a local place, take an online course or check with your health professional for a recommendation.
As the cure for pain search continues, recent research says it all: mindfulness matters when it comes to managing pain.
Abramowitz, S. (2018). Mindfulness as a component of addiction treatment. In I. Robeck, H. L. Malinoff, M. I. Pohl, R. C. Waller, M. F. Weaver, M. A. Weiner, . . . B. B. Wilford (Eds.), The American Society of Addiction Medicine handbook on pain and addiction (pp. 252-257). New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.