Millions of people (50 million in America alone, to be exact) live with chronic pain: fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic migraines, late stages of cancer and neuropathy/nerve damage are just a few of many examples. People who suffer from this kind of pain often resort to pain clinics filled with doctors who deal out pain pills: an easy solution to a complex problem that can easily lead to harmful consequences: addiction and increased risk from an overdose.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this cycle of pain, then addiction, then overdose death is on the rise. Statistical figures have tripled since 1990 and continually increase every year; 15,000 Americans died in 2008 alone from prescription painkiller overdose. The CDC calls this a "deadly epidemic", and demands state policy change via many pathways, including health care provider accountability and shutting down the operation of rogue pain clinics. Since public awareness has increased on this issue and preventive laws have been enacted in many states, pain management specialists and clinics are handling patients with chronic pain issues in a more comprehensive approach: favoring anti-inflammatory and over-the-counter medications; limiting painkiller prescription and only using them for only for acute pain and on a temporary basis; and by incorporating a "team" approach that include psychologists, massage therapists, acupuncture specialists and holistic specialists as well as psychiatrists.
WebMD's "Pain Management Health Center" page specifically says that meditation and deep breathing are effective at helping your body (the mind and other muscles) to relax, easing pain. Stress has been linked to increase physical pain, so guided imagery as well as yoga and meditation can be used help to reduce stress naturally. Yoga, as well as other forms of exercise, releases endorphins: the "feel good" chemical in the brain which also blocks pain signals. Asana builds muscle strength, preventing re-injury and decreasing perception of pain. Acupuncture regulates the prana, or life energy, in the body by redirecting pain and discomfort through the body's meridians, also known as channels or pathways. Acupuncture is an alternative therapy developed and practiced in Asian countries and Chinese medicine, and are so seemingly effective that modern Western medicine has legitimized its use by incorporating it into many treatment plans. Massage therapy not only feels great, but it also causes muscles to relax and can improve sleep (as well as yoga!). Sleep deprivation intensifies pain and deprives the body of the ample amount of energy and strength required especially for those with chronic pain to get through the day.
If you are living with chronic pain, you are not alone! If you practice yoga, there is a decent chance that it was recommended to you by your doctor or therapist to help treat some type of pain or ailment. If so, how has yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and pranayama (deep breathing) helped to you cope with pain?