Johns Hopkins Health Alert
Meditation Benefits Body and Mind
Many arthritis sufferers are trying non-traditional complementary remedies, such as meditation, to help reduce pain and discomfort.
Arthritis pain and disability have both a physical and a psychological component. People who cope best with their disease have found ways to address all of the factors that influence their pain. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs remain the mainstay of medical treatment for most moderate to severe arthritis. But adding yoga and meditation can bring a new dimension to pain relief and may even reduce the amount of medication you need.
The basics of meditation are often taught along with yoga, or you can find separate classes at colleges, community centers, or as part of mental health or cardiac rehabilitation programs.
The Transcendental Meditation approach gained prominence in the 1960s. This is the practice of focusing attention on an object, a word, or your own breathing, as a way of suspending the stream of thoughts that normally occupy your mind.
Meditation or quieting the mind in this way for 20 - 30 minutes a day has positive effects on the body. These include reducing your heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure and bringing about a reduction in the damaging "fight-or-flight” response that can be triggered by physical or emotional stress.
Meditation allows you to achieve a state of profound calm commonly referred to as the relaxation response. Meditation has been shown to alter physical and emotional responses to stress and may reduce the psychological distress that often accompanies chronic illness. Results of various studies suggest that the regular practice of meditation can reduce arthritis pain as well as relieve anxiety, stress, and depression.
In a study reported at an American College of Rheumatology meeting, rheumatoid arthritis patients were assigned to one of two groups. Half of the group took a class on Mindfulness- Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a program that includes meditation, yoga, and other relaxation exercises. The rest of the group had no intervention.
After six months, patients who practiced MBSR experienced a 33% reduction in psychological distress, an 11% decrease in standard measures of disease activity such as the number of painful or swollen joints, and a 46% decrease in erythrocyte sedimentation rate (indicating a reduction in inflammation).
For more Alerts and Special Reports, please visit the Arthritis Topic page.
Posted in Arthritis on September 3, 2007
Reviewed September 2011
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