December 24, 2011

Mindfully Managing Pain

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Mindfulness treatments help reduce fatigue and stress associated with joint disease

(dailyRx News) Chronic pain is commonly coupled with stress and fatigue. A mindful approach to treatment proves helpful in reducing the added stresses of daily life for those experiencing chronic pain.

A study published online in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases demonstrates how mindfulness exercises ease the stress and fatigue coupled with joint diseases.

"Speak to a healthcare professional about mindfulness treatments."

Lead author on the study, Heidi Zangi from the National Resource Center for Rehabilitation in Rheumatology, and her team note these strategies show improvements, which “indicate that the participants may have incorporated some mindfulness strategies into their daily lives and that these strategies have strengthened their ability to respond to their stressful experience in a more flexible way.”

Seventy-three patients of ages twenty to seventy, all suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, or psoriatic arthritis took part in the study. Mindfulness treatments lasted fifteen weeks with a total of ten lessons and an additional booster course occurring six months after the initial completion.

Half of the patients underwent “mindfulness” exercises, the other patients acted as controls.

According to dailyRx contributing expert, LuAnn Pierce, LCSW, “Mindfulness, the ability to attend to the present moment, helps limit our focus on the past or future, which can otherwise result in emotional distress. In mindfulness, we learn to 'be with' what we are experiencing rather than judging it or trying to escape.

The ability to work through physical and emotional pain using the breath and attention to thoughts and feelings is remarkably successful.”

Within the study, health care professionals used exercises from a Vitality Training Program to help the patients concentrate on their thoughts, emotions, and bodies without judgment or avoidance.

The techniques are meant to address personal limitations and the emotions that tend to follow them (frustration, happiness, sadness, etc.) in order to create a stress-free environment of healing understanding.

Mindfulness tactics involve creativity expression such as music or drawing, as well as sharing experiences, meditating, and other introspective techniques. In order to compare their effectiveness, the control group underwent standard care and received a take-home CD to practice more conventional methods.

Sixty-seven participants finished the program. Although no difference in pain levels, disease presence, or communication existed amongst groups, those who underwent mindfulness programs displayed lower levels of stress and fatigue.

Analyzing improvement with a GHQ-20 stress questionnaire, thirteen ‘mindful’ participants showed high, above average stress scores before the program while only two reported the same results thereafter.

Conversely, the control group’s numbers fell from ten over-stressed patients to eight at treatment’s end.

Pierce tells dailyRx, “Effective coping skills are critical to work through these inherent disappointments and adaptations. This often includes dealing with many perceived intangible losses, such as social status or feelings of power, that occur when one is unable to work or contribute to the household in the same way.

Other changes such as loss of independence and role reversal within the family can be especially difficult for everyone.”

Talk to a doctor about mindfulness treatments for joint disease and chronic pain.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
December 20, 2011

Last Updated:
February 6, 2012