16 February 1999

Yoga and Meditation Help Relieve Chronic Pain

Pain is as inevitable as death, but most people try to avoid it at all costs. To help people with chronic pain (pain which lasts 6 months or longer), a psychologist at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center has developed a program combining both yoga and meditation with remarkable results. Over 80 per cent of the participants reported more effective stress and pain management.

Pat Randolph, Ph.D., director of Psychology Services in the Pain Center at TTUHSC, began a pain/stress management program nearly seven years ago which uses meditation and yoga exercises in coordination with medical and psychological treatments.

Randolph followed the progress of 67 chronic pain patients who used the program in addition to medical and psychological intervention.

He found that, among patients who used meditation practices to self-regulate pain, 78per cent reported an improvement in subjective mood; 80 per cent said their ability to handle stress improved, and 86 per cent reported higher awareness of internal thought and feeling states.

"What we know about the definition of pain is that it is a complex interaction between sensations, thoughts, and feelings or emotions. So when we treat pain, we need to utilize both medical and psychological methods," said Randolph.

The program is based on Theravada Buddhism, an Eastern doctrine that assumes suffering and stress to be part of life, but can be relieved through awareness and letting go of expectations. "It's based on Eastern meditative practices, but it's devoid of religious underpinnings," Randolph added.

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