Treating Pain With Meditation … In some cases, the holistic practice could replace narcotics. Integrating meditation into regular treatment could significantly cut healthcare costs.
Sarah Kehoe tried Aleve for her back pain. She tried stretching. She tried yoga. She tried forgetting about it. She tried pain patches. She tried acupuncture. A shot of painkillers into her back. Prescription anti-inflammatory pain patches. Opiates. Surgery. Physical therapy. Heat and compresses. Ignoring it again. Steroids. More opiates. Acupuncture again. She couldn’t sit, stand up straight, lie down on her back. She was weak, had lost muscle tone. She fainted on the subway. Sarah Kehoe, an otherwise healthy 36-year-old woman, a former high school and college athlete, a yogi of 10 years, was falling apart.
Sometime during the summer of 2011, Kehoe doesn’t know exactly when, a disc in her back herniated. After her surgery that September, pain seized hold of her again in the winter: the surgeon said the disc had reherniated slightly. Neither he nor Kehoe wanted to do surgery again, leaving Kehoe to search for other pain management options. Her brother had recently completed a meditation course to treat his depression and bought her a course for Christmas.
Chronic pain prevalence is estimated at around 15 percent of American adults.
In early January 2012, Kehoe stood in the back corner of a barre studio on 29th Street in Manhattan. She and the one other class member listened quietly, each holding a white flower, while their instructor Emily Fletcher sang tranquilly in Sanskrit to begin the initiation ceremony. A ribbon of perfume danced gently off the end of an incense stick in the dim, candlelit room. Peace settled over the studio quickly, despite the calls of actors rehearsing next door bursting through the wall. Kehoe was hinging her last hope on the mantra she was given while the instructor and the other student closed their eyes. Silence swelled in the room and the meditation began.
Millions of Americans live with chronic pain. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, conducted in 2008, approximated 100 million adults are affected by pain, including joint pain and arthritis. Other studies, discounting joint pain and arthritis, estimate chronic pain prevalence at around 15 percent of American adults.
Persistent pain is not only life-altering for the patient, (causing missed worked days or early retirement, traumatic experiences, discomfort, and lack of sleep), but it is extremely costly to the nation. And at this moment, the U.S. has turned its eyes to healthcare cost and management. One article by Darrell Gaskin in The Journal of Pain estimated persistent pain to cost from $560 to $635 billion annually, far exceeding the price of other costly diagnoses such as cardiovascular disease, injury, and cancer. These costs arise from medical expenditures for the pain, as well as for other conditions complicated by pain, and a hindering of the patient’s ability to work or function.
While narcotics can help patients considerably, many patients on opiates whom I have worked with feel they can’t function as well. They develop a drug high, have cloudy thought processes, and while they do not feel the pain as strongly (many still have pain despite taking drugs), they are not at a their baseline functioning level.
Chronic pain is not the same as the pain you feel from an injury. That’s acute pain—the sensing of tissue damage by nerves. Your body gets injured and you hurt. Chronic pain often, though not always, begins with an injury or tissue damage, but is perpetuated, usually by other factors, long after a reasonable time has passed for the injury to heal. Data have shown that an accurate diagnosis can only be established in approximately one-third of patients with low back pain. The relentless nature of chronic pain suggests that stress, environmental, and emotional effects likely overlay the original tissue damage in an injury, adding to the intensity and tenacity of the pain.
The study discovered that by activating and reinforcing some areas of the brain used in pain processing, meditation has the overall effect of helping to reduce pain intensity in patients. Other theories on how meditation helps pain exist, including that it decreases stress, which in turn decreases pain. Zeidan explained that meditation has known to be helpful for a while, but he has shown through this study and another conducted in 2010 that it takes much less time to see results than previously thought.
The rest of the Original article form over at the Atlantic
Peace and Blessings