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4 Articles in this Series
Introduction
Diabetes and Pain
Mindfulness Meditation
Pain and Autism: How to Better Treat a Pain Patient with Autism
Postherpetic Neuralgia: Effective PHN Prevention in the Elderly

Mindfulness Meditation

Starting off a session with meditation is a very relaxing way to begin PAINWeek. Mel Pohl, MD, led the audience in a mindfulness meditation that focused on breathing and how each part of the body felt—from head to toe (body scan). Once he began the lecture on the connection between emotional and physical pain, the audience was alert and ready. Dr. Pohl, who is medical director of Central Recovery Treatment in Las Vegas, discussed the interaction between chronic pain, suffering, trauma, and addiction from a physiological and psychological standpoint. In his practice, he teaches patients the benefits of meditation (usually during a 20-minute session).

According to Dr. Pohl, studies have shown that meditation increases patients’ pain thresholds, reduces pain perception, and helps enrich the brain’s neuronal structures. “The goal of meditation is not to eliminate pain or anxiety, but rather to get patients to focus on breathing and relaxation techniques [focused awareness]. We teach patients to achieve nonjudgmental, self acceptance and to be in the present moment,” Dr. Pohl said. Through meditation, Dr. Pohl is hoping to reverse some of the negative central sensitization that can occur with chronic pain. “We have seen a decrease in cortisol and epinephrine levels, an increase in serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid levels, which are linked to relaxation and antidepression, and an increase in natural killer cells,” he told the audience.

To illustrate the effects of mindfulness meditation on chronic pain, Dr. Pohl cited a study by Morone et al, which included 27 older adults (>65 years).1 After 3 months of daily meditation, the researchers found that the patients reported less pain, improved attention, enhanced sense of well being, and improved quality of life.

Reference

  1. Morone NE, Lynch CS, Greco CM, Tindle HA, Weiner DK. “I felt like a new person.” the effects of mindfulness meditation on older adults with chronic pain: qualitative narrative analysis of diary entries. J Pain. 2008;9(9):841-848.
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