Yoga and Meditation Reduce Chronic Pain

A mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course was found to benefit patients with chronic pain and depression, leading to significant improvement in participant perceptions of pain, mood, and functional capacity, according to a study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. Most of the study respondents (89%) reported the program helped them find ways to better cope with their pain while 11% remained neutral.

Chronic pain is a common and serious medical condition affecting an estimated 100 million people in the United States, which correlates with annual costs of approximately $635 billion. The small-scale study was conducted in a semi-rural population in Oregon where issues of affordability, addiction, and access to care are common. Participants received intensive instruction in mindfulness meditation and mindful hatha yoga during an eight-week period.

“Many people have lost hope because, in most cases, chronic pain will never fully resolve,” says Cynthia Marske, DO, an osteopathic physician and director of graduate medical education at the Community Health Clinics of Benton and Linn County. “However, mindful yoga and meditation can help improve the structure and function of the body, which supports the process of healing.”

Healing and curing are inherently different, explains Dr. Marske.

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

The study found mindful meditation and yoga led to significant improvements in patients’ perceptions of pain, depression, and disability. Following the course, Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores, a standard measure of depression, dropped by 3.7 points on a 27-point scale. According to Dr. Marske, some patients experience a similar drop from the use of an antidepressant.

“Chronic pain often goes hand-in-hand with depression,” says Dr. 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.”

Study participants received instruction in MBSR, a systematic educational program based on training people to have an awareness of the self in the present moment, and a nonjudgmental manner. The findings bolster other evidence that MBSR can be a useful adjunctive treatment for chronic pain while improving perceived depression.

“The bottom line is that patients are seeking new ways to cope with chronic pain and effective non-pharmaceutical treatments are available,” says Dr. Marske. “Our findings show meditation and yoga can be a viable option for people seeking relief from chronic pain.”

Source: American Osteopathic Association

Yoga Linked with Improved Symptoms in Heart Patients

Sophia Antipolis wrote . . . . . . . . .

Yoga postures and breathing could help patients with atrial fibrillation manage their symptoms, according to research presented today at ESC Congress 2020.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder. One in four middle-aged adults in Europe and the US will develop the condition, which causes 20–30% of all strokes and increases the risk of death by 1.5-fold in men and 2-fold in women. Reduced quality of life is common, and 10–40% of patients are hospitalised each year.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include palpitations, racing or irregular pulse, shortness of breath, tiredness, chest pain and dizziness.

“The symptoms of atrial fibrillation can be distressing. They come and go, causing many patients to feel anxious and limiting their ability to live a normal life,” said study author Dr. Naresh Sen of HG SMS Hospital, Jaipur, India.

This study investigated whether yoga could ease symptoms in patients with atrial fibrillation. The study enrolled 538 patients in 2012 to 2017. Patients served as their own controls. For 12 weeks they did no yoga, then for 16 weeks patients attended 30-minute yoga sessions every other day which included postures and breathing. During the yoga period, patients were also encouraged to practice the movements and breathing at home on a daily basis.

During both study periods, symptoms and episodes of atrial fibrillation were recorded in a diary. Some patients also wore a heart monitor to verify atrial fibrillation episodes. Patients completed an anxiety and depression survey3 and a questionnaire4 assessing their ability to do daily activities and socialise, energy levels and mood. Heart rate and blood pressure were also measured. The researchers then compared outcomes between the yoga and non-yoga periods.

During the 16-week yoga period, patients experienced significant improvements in all areas compared to the 12-week non-yoga period. For example, during the non-yoga period, patients experienced an average of 15 symptomatic episodes of atrial fibrillation compared to eight episodes during the yoga period. Average blood pressure was 11/6 mmHg lower after yoga training.

Dr. Sen said: “Our study suggests that yoga has wide-ranging physical and mental health benefits for patients with atrial fibrillation and could be added on top of usual therapies.”

Source: European Society of Cardiology


Today’s Comic

Study: Yoga Shown to Improve Anxiety

Yoga improves symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a condition with chronic nervousness and worry, suggesting the popular practice may be helpful in treating anxiety in some people.

Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, a new study found that yoga was significantly more effective for generalized anxiety disorder than standard education on stress management, but not as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard form of structured talk therapy that helps patients identify negative thinking for better responses to challenges.

“Generalized anxiety disorder is a very common condition, yet many are not willing or able to access evidence-based treatments,” says lead study author Naomi M. Simon, MD, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. “Our findings demonstrate that yoga, which is safe and widely available, can improve symptoms for some people with this disorder and could be a valuable tool in an overall treatment plan.”

For the study, 226 men and women with generalized anxiety disorder were randomly assigned to 3 groups—CBT, Kundalini yoga, or stress management education, a standardized control technique.

After three months, both CBT and yoga were found to be significantly more effective for anxiety than stress management. Specifically, 54 percent of those who practiced yoga met response criteria for meaningfully improved symptoms compared with 33 percent in the stress education group. Of those treated with CBT, 71 percent met these symptom improvement criteria.

However, after six months of follow-up, the CBT response remained significantly better than stress education (the control therapy), while yoga was no longer significantly better, suggesting CBT may have more robust, longer-lasting anxiety-reducing effects. The results were published online August 12 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Study Details

The study involved an evidence-based protocol for CBT treatment of generalized anxiety disorder, including psychoeducation, cognitive interventions (focused on identifying and adapting maladaptive thoughts and worrying), and muscle relaxation techniques.

Kundalini yoga included physical postures, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, yoga theory, and meditation and mindfulness practice.

The stress management education control group received lectures about the physiological, psychological, and medical effects of stress, as well as the antianxiety effects of lifestyle behaviors, such as reducing alcohol and smoking, and the importance of exercise and a healthy diet. Homework consisted of listening to educational material about stress, nutrition, and lifestyle.

Each treatment was administered in groups of 3 to 6 participants, over weekly 2-hour sessions for 12 weeks with 20 minutes of daily homework assigned.

Can Yoga Help Treat Anxiety?

According to researchers, generalized anxiety disorder is a common, impairing, and undertreated condition, currently affecting an estimated 6.8 million Americans. While most people feel anxious from time to time, it is considered a disorder when worrying becomes excessive and interferes with day-to-day life. CBT is considered the gold standard first-line treatment. Medications, including antidepressants and sometimes benzodiazepines, may also be used. Yet, not everyone is willing to take medication, which can have adverse side effects, and there are challenges with accessing CBT for many, including lack of access to trained therapists and long waitlists.

“Many people already seek complementary and alternative interventions, including yoga, to treat anxiety,” says Dr. Simon. “This study suggests that at least short-term there is significant value for people with generalized anxiety disorder to give yoga a try to see if it works for them. Yoga is well-tolerated, easily accessible, and has a number of health benefits.”

According to Dr. Simon, future research should aim to understand who is most likely to benefit from yoga for generalized anxiety disorder to help providers better personalize treatment recommendations.

“We need more options to treat anxiety because different people will respond to different interventions, and having more options can help overcome barriers to care,” she says. “Having a range of effective treatments can increase the likelihood people with anxiety will be willing to engage in evidence-based care.”

Source: NYU Langone Hospitals

Gentle Yoga May Deliver Migraine Relief

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

People suffering from regular migraines despite medication might consider investing in a yoga mat.

That’s according to a new trial that tested the effects of a gentle yoga practice — with slow-paced physical postures, breathing exercises and relaxation. Researchers found that people who added the practice to their usual migraine medication suffered about half as many headache attacks as they normally did.

In contrast, study patients who stuck with medication alone saw only a small decline in migraine flare-ups.

The findings appear in the online issue of the journal Neurology.

Worldwide, an estimated 1 billion people have migraine headaches, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. For people who suffer frequent episodes, there are medications that can help prevent them. But it may not be enough.

“The good news is that practicing something as simple and accessible as yoga may help much more than medications alone,” lead researcher Dr. Rohit Bhatia, a neurologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, said in a journal news release. “And all you need is a mat.”

Instruction helps, too, however. In this study, migraine patients first had classes with a yoga teacher three times a week for one month. After that, they practiced at home with a manual for another two months.

By that three-month mark, their average headache frequency had dropped. They also felt their migraines were less disruptive to their daily lives, based on a standard rating scale.

Migraines cause episodes of intense head pain, along with symptoms like nausea, visual disturbances and sensitivity to light and sound. Some people need to take preventive medication, but lifestyle choices — including sufficient sleep, regular meals and exercise — are always key, experts said.

“Physical exercise is one important part of migraine management,” said Dr. Rachel Colman, an assistant professor of neurology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City.

But a problem for some people is that higher-impact exercise, like running, can be a migraine trigger, said Colman, who was not involved in the study.

So yoga may offer a lower-impact way to be active, she said.

Beyond physical exercise, yoga includes other ways to practice “mindfulness” — such as breathing practices, relaxation techniques and meditation.

And research shows that in general, mindfulness practices can support the parasympathetic nervous system, said Dr. Cynthia Armand, a neurologist at the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City.

That’s the “rest and digest” arm of the nervous system, explained Armand, who was not involved in the study. It puts the brakes on the sympathetic nervous system — which governs “fight or flight” and its accompanying surge in stress hormones.

For the study, Bhatia’s team recruited 160 adult patients in India with episodic migraines — meaning between four and 14 a month. Most were taking preventive medication, mainly certain blood pressure drugs or antidepressants.

The researchers randomly assigned half to add yoga to their usual medications; all patients were given lifestyle advice.

After three months, people in the yoga group were having 48% fewer migraine episodes — dropping from an average of nine a month, to just under five. There was little change in the comparison group, who went from an average of just under eight migraines a month, to just shy of seven.

Armand and Colman called the results promising.

“I think people can be encouraged by this, and consider adding yoga to their standard care,” Colman said.

An important point, Armand said, is that it appeared safe. No study participants reported suffering headaches or nausea during their yoga practice.

A caution, though, is that yoga exists in many different styles. The practice in this study consisted of gentler poses and plenty of breath work and relaxation — not the fast-paced and strenuous styles offered in many real-world classes.

Colman recommended people with migraines avoid “hot yoga,” which is practiced in heated rooms, since dehydration is a major trigger of headaches.

Armand agreed on that point, and said that in general, it’s wise to know what kind of yoga you’re getting into beforehand.

“You want to make sure you’re at the right place, with the right instruction,” she said.

Source: HealthDay

Yoga May Bring a Brain Boost

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

Looking for a way to improve your memory, gain control over your emotions, and boost your ability to multitask?

A new brain scan study may be just the incentive you need to put yoga at the top of your New Years’ to-do list.

The review of 11 published studies found a link between yoga’s movements, meditation and breathing practices and an increase in the size of key brain areas. Those areas are involved in thinking clearly, decision-making, memory and regulating emotions.

“The science is pointing to yoga being beneficial for healthy brain function, but we need more rigorous and well-controlled intervention studies to confirm these initial findings,” study co-author Jessica Damoiseaux said in a news release. She’s an assistant professor of gerontology and psychology at Wayne State University in Detroit.

The review, published in the journal Brain Plasticity, found the brain benefits of yoga are similar to those from aerobic exercise.

Why isn’t yet clear. More study is needed, the authors said.

“Yoga is not aerobic in nature, so there must be other mechanisms leading to these brain changes,” lead author Dr. Neha Gothe said in the news release. “So far, we don’t have the evidence to identify what those mechanisms are.”

Gothe is director of the Exercise Psychology Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Five of the 11 studies used brain imaging before and after newbies followed a regimen of at least one yoga session per week for 10 to 24 weeks. All used a regimen called hatha yoga.

Other studies compared brain scans of yoga practitioners and people who had never tried yoga.

Collectively, the studies pointed to a link between yoga and increased size in the brain’s hippocampus. Involved in memory and learning, the hippocampus shrinks with age and is the first part of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Yoga also appeared to expand the amygdala, a brain area involved in emotions; the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and making choices; and the cingulate cortex, which plays an important part in regulating emotions, learning and memory.

Yoga practitioners were also found to fare better on mental performance tests, the study team observed.

Dr. Thomas Vidic, a neurologist at Elkhart General Hospital in Elkhart, Ind., who was not involved in the study, said he was not surprised by the findings.

“There have been numerous studies that show that mental and physical activity is useful [and] probably necessary — to maintaining brain function,” said Vidic, who is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For now, however, “we cannot separate out what it is about yoga that is causing these effects, [but] it would be an easy guess that yoga combines both mind and body, and is thus able to activate numerous pathways,” Vidic added.

So should those who’ve never been drawn to yoga before but might like the potential brain benefits give it a go?

Definitely, Vidic said. But, he added, if you haven’t been active, start slow and join an appropriate group.

“Yoga is not for sissies,” he said. “It is a serious discipline and within this concept is the significant physical and cognitive stimulation.”

And, remember, you won’t become competent overnight. But, Vidic said, you can become an enthusiast on day one.

“I believe that everyone needs to find an activity that is physically and mentally stimulating,” he said. “And for many people yoga is a great activity.”

Source: HealthDay