Neck pain can be caused by muscle strain, injuries, and some illnesses. However, modern life can be a true pain in the neck, too. Sitting in one location working in front of a computer screen increases your risk of a sore, aching neck. So can tilting your head forward to stare at your iPhone screen while you text for too many hours, according to a study by Kenneth Hansraj, MD, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine.
Overall, about 10 percent of Americans experience neck pain each year from a variety of causes, the American College of Rheumatology reports. Although taking over-the-counter drugs and remaining active usually helps most people feel better in two to eight weeks, about one in 10 have lingering neck pain. However, researchers have found the ancient practice of mediation may be a non-drug prescription to soothe chronic neck pain and reduce feelings of stress and depression associated with the condition.
In a study headed by Michael Jeitler, MD, of the Immanuel Hospital in Berlin, patients with ongoing neck pain who were also emotionally stressed by their condition were divided into two groups. One set of patients participated in meditation sessions, and the other group exercised. After eight weeks, patients who meditated had a significant reduction in pain compared to the exercise group. The meditators were also able to cope better with their pain and experienced less stress. “Meditation may support chronic pain patients in pain reduction and pain coping,” the researchers concluded.
About 8 percent (18 million) Americans practice meditation, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). While there are many varieties of meditation techniques, most incorporate a quiet location with few distractions, a comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or other positions), a focus of attention (words, an object, or concentrating on slow breathing), and an open attitude that allows distractions to come and go without judgement.
Research is underway to find out how meditation can influence health. So far, it’s known to increase calmness and physical relaxation, improve mood, help people cope with illness, and enhance overall health and well-being. Regular meditation may lower high blood pressure, improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, help people sleep better and even reduce the incidence and severity of acute respiratory illnesses like the flu.
Results from a NCCIH study found that eight weeks of mediation training lowered stress-induced inflammation in the body better than a health program that includes physical activity, education about diet, and music therapy. Meditation may also relieve the pain of migraine headaches, according to research at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
According to the Institute of Medicine, an estimated 100 million Americans are affected by chronic pain of varying kinds, which often defies the best efforts to control it — and the NCCIH is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to test meditation, along with other complementary treatments, as a non-drug way to manage pain in the military and veteran populations.
May 15, 2015
Janet O’Dell, RN