Chronic pain interrupts life. The struggle to feel well takes up time, energy and resources that you would rather put towards other things in your life. Truthfully, some days it feels like staying in bed seems the logical and only rational recourse as you try to alleviate your back pain. Of course, you miss out on plenty of life in doing so, but you struggle with the choices you have in your life. What if you discovered a non-invasive way to treat chronic back pain? Would you jump at the chance to try it? Well, maybe after you unfolded and stretched your joints and spine to get them warmed up and moving again. The reality is that chronic back pain holds us back from experiencing the fullness of life. But, mindfulness meditation offers an alternative treatment that whispers promises of moving with less pain. Could this be the new reality for back pain sufferers?
Basics of Chronic Back Pain
Doctors label lingering pain in the body as a chronic condition. In fact, any ongoing pain lasting longer than 12 weeks earns this description from medical professionals. However, chronic pain does more than hurt your body. It can inconvenience your entire life.
Chronic Back Pain Explained
Concerning lower back, you may have sensations that vary from bone to nerve to muscle pain. Chronic low back pain arises from a variety of situations, and back pain can limit your motion in plenty of ways since your back forms the center of your musculoskeletal system. Falling may lead to this condition, whether you trip and fall in your house while cleaning gutters or slipping on ice in your driveway. Diseases such as cancer or kidney infections increase the risk of chronic back pain. Stress on your body may result in a ruptured or herniated disc, or muscle tension and the accompanying pain. Sports injuries, sudden movements, and awkward movements can all strain the muscles of your back.The list of possibilities goes on from here.
Traditionally, painkillers and physical therapy comprise the treatment protocol for back pain. While physical therapy may address the underlying cause, medication directly works to alleviate your symptoms. Other comfort measures and remedies create comfort but do not treat the reason for your pain.
While pain relievers offer go-to relief for back pain, the long-term effects of this treatment pose problems. Your stomach and liver may not like the medications as these systems strain to cope with these drugs. Opioid pain relievers may lead to addiction. Rest, ice compresses and exercise help as well. In some cases, surgery attempts to solve the problem.
Mindfulness meditation offers a solution for pain management without negative consequences or drastic actions. Furthermore, this alternative does not mask symptoms or hide underlying problems. Mindfulness meditation has no long-term complications, unlike constant drugs and surgery that still may leave you in pain.
Origins of Meditation
The ancient ritual of mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhism. However, other religions include prayer and meditation techniques similar to this practice. Shifting your thoughts away from the usual preoccupations lets you appreciate your current situation while changing your perspective, even regarding the experience of your pain.
How Meditation Reduces Pain
How does mindfulness meditation work on pain? Meditation reduces stress, and that, in turn, loosens tense muscles and encourages healthy blood circulation. These benefits work to promote physical healing and repair damaged muscles. Furthermore, mindfulness meditation improves sleep. Your body needs plenty of rest for healing. In fact, regular mindfulness meditation helps you experience a deeper sleep because it helps you tune out other thoughts and feelings. Finally, the mere act of moving your mind to something else offers relief.
Proof That Mindfulness Meditation Works
But, does mindfulness meditation work? Experts say, “Yes.” A growing body of research continues to support the link between mind and body. These results extend to the connection between mindfulness meditation and chronic back pain management.
In an eight-week Group Health study, participants in a mindfulness-based stress reduction experienced saw a 30 percent improvement in symptoms. Researchers documented enhanced abilities while carrying out daily living tasks. Experts also noted significantly less back pain for mindfulness practitioners compared to standard treatments such as medication.
A University of Pittsburgh study found pain decreased and function increased for participants practicing mindfulness meditation. These results were especially accurate in the short-term, indicating a need for sustained meditation practices. And another study found mindfulness meditation practices effectively reduce pain severity. In conclusion, researchers found that meditation improves the physical and mental quality of life of patients.
Practicing Mindfulness Meditation
To experience the pain reduction found with the practice of mindfulness meditation, you must indeed practice it. Building the skill of awareness and focusing on your breath requires discipline.
Practice Makes it Easier
Fortunately, these stress-reducing, pain-relieving techniques are easy to practice at home or wherever you might find yourself with a few moments of uninterrupted quiet. The formula is simple, not magic. Sit cross-legged with your back straight or lie down, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Over time, your practice becomes more regular and easier to accomplish. The mental and physical benefits arise as well. For encouragement, Dr. Daniel Cherkin, Ph.D., of Group Health suggests that long-range meditation practices may prove more effective than traditional medication and physical therapy when alleviating back pain.
Chronic back pain is a common condition that may limit your daily activities. Doctors may also find this condition difficult to treat. Mindfulness meditation offers promising hope to reduce pain and restore the ability to complete daily tasks. In other words, this alternative treatment improves the quality of life and potentially regains lost time, energy and resources.
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