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Yoga and meditation could help reduce chronic pain and depression, study finds

Adopting a more mindful approach can help consumers physically and mentally

Photo (c) Stgur Mr Karlsson Heimsmyndir - Getty Images
Recent studies have highlighted how yoga and meditation can help consumers struggling with everything from migraines to high blood pressure

Now, a new study conducted by researchers from the American Osteopathic Association has found that following a yoga and meditation practice can help those struggling with other types of chronic pain and depression. Because the two conditions are often linked, the study results are promising because consumers can get relief from both. 

“Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with depression,” said researcher Dr. Cynthia Marske. “Mindfulness-based meditation and yoga can help restore both a patient’s mental and physical health and can be effective alone or in combination with other treatments such as therapy and medication.” 

Healing versus curing

To see how a more mindful approach can help consumers struggling with chronic pain and depression, the researchers had participants take an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course. Once a week, participants took a 2.5 hour class and were then instructed to practice the techniques they learned in class for 30 minutes a day and six times per week at home. Participants also completed several questionnaires at both the beginning and end of the study that allowed researchers to assess their pain levels and mental health. 

At the end of the eight weeks, the participants reported notable improvements to both their physical and mental health. Practicing yoga and meditation, which guided the participants to have a more mindful attitude, was effective in lowering the severity of chronic pain and related depression symptoms. 

“Many people have lost hope because, in most cases, chronic pain will never fully resolve,” said Dr. Marske. “However, mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing.” 

According to Dr. Marske, the biggest change can happen with a change in mindset. Instead of looking for a cure that isn’t likely to work long-term, she encourages those struggling with chronic pain to approach their condition from a place of healing. This shift in thinking will allow practices like yoga and meditation to be as effective as possible. 

“Curing means eliminating disease, while healing refers to becoming more whole,” Dr. Marske said. “With chronic pain, healing involves learning to live with a level of pain that is manageable. For this, yoga and meditation can be very beneficial.” 

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