Mindfulness, the Pain Killer

Many people have to deal with pain on a daily basis. Most use prescription medications to help. But, these drugs are dangerous and over 12,000 people a year die from overdoses of these powerful pain killers. In addition, there are a number of disorders that do not respond well to these drugs. One of these painful disorders is fibromyalgia.

In today’s Research News “Mindfulness meditation alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms in women: Results of a randomized clinical trial.”


It is reported that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) reduces symptoms of fibromyalgia, including perceived stress, sleep disturbance, and symptom severity, but not pain or physical functioning. This study and prior research suggest that mindfulness is a safe and effective treatment for this painful disorder. It is not a magical cure, but can be of great assistance in coping with the disorder.

MBSR contains both meditation and yoga practice. Prior research suggests that both may be helpful with pain management. Yoga exercises may help reduce fibromyalgia pain. Yoga has been shown to reduce pain, fatigue, depression, and improve sleep and energy. But, it is unclear whether meditation and yoga practice act in the same way, synergistically, or additively. Regardless they seem to work; but how?

Mindfulness practice and particularly MBSR appears to calm the sympathetic nervous system, reducing stress. This benefit can lead to a lowering of resting heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and relax muscle. Mindfulness promotes deep muscle relaxation which lessens tension and irritability. With the reduction of the stressful effects of pain, the pain becomes more manageable. The physiological relaxation itself can stop the pain from amplifying itself through the induction of the stress response.

Mindfulness practice can also help manage the psychological effects of pain. When pain is consistently part of the day, the individual starts to dwell on it. This in turn produces stress and anxiety about the present pain, as well as a dread concerning future pain. Mindfulness training can help patients learn to direct their attention away from pain. By focusing on the present moment, thoughts of future pain are removed.

Mindfulness practice can promote relaxation and awareness of what is actually transpiring. This can reduce the distressing thoughts and feelings that come with pain and prevent them from making the pain worse. Mindfulness training can enhance body awareness, which may lead to improved self-care. All of these effects of mindfulness training can help with the pain management.

Mindfulness training is known to produce changes in the nervous system that may provide benefits for pain patients. The changes appear to result in an inhibition of the central nervous system’s ability to perceive pain, reducing the sensations the patient actually feels.

So practice mindfulness to assist in pain management.


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