Mindfulness and Body : Treating Lower Back Pain

man with a walking stickOver 100 million Americans suffer from some form of chronic pain–that’s nearly half of all adults in the country. As such, treatments from hospital visits, medication, and the like, amount to more than half a trillion dollars in a given year, according to studies. Furthermore, it should be noted that those who report and receive some form of treatment for disability as a result of pain, are mostly affected by lower back problems, amounting to more than 26 million Americans. This is a national issue.

Treatment for lower back pain typically includes various types of pain medication and sometimes surgery. The problems with latter are that they further delay productivity and can be dangerous, given the sensitivity of the area and its function to the overall body. The process of recovery from surgery can take about four months, making it less of an option for those which have jobs that require them to be available. That leaves medication, which can either decrease inflammation or cut off the pain itself. While commonly effective, there are potential, unpleasant side effects, including stomach pains, fatigue, heart attacks, and dependency.

However, recent research shows that the process of mindfulness meditation can be effective in treating this epidemic. Researchers lead Dr. Natalia Morone at the University of Pittsburgh, asked a group of 282 seniors to be involved in the study. Over a period of 8 months, total, two groups chosen at random were given different treatments–one was given methods to deal with mindfulness, the other was taught information about health and aging. Both groups experienced successes; however the mindful group had overall better results.

By teaching patients to be more aware of their thoughts and ways focus and feelings of pain can prevent them from completing other tasks, researchers found that the mindful group was better able to cope with pain, resulting in diminished symptoms. More specifically, more than three quarters of the mindful group noted improvements in levels of pain, compared to the same from less than half of those who were only given healthy aging tips. That’s a dramatic difference of 34 percentage points. It should be noted that only these two groups were compared. Other treatments, like those listed above, were not directly involved nor placed alongside the study. Though, Dr. Morone suggests that exercise could improve physical function in addition to the absence or lower level of pain.

These findings are important because they provide an alternative that is arguably healthier than medication and less risky than surgery. Especially for seniors, this option is most attractive and provides more flexibility when it comes to managing day to day activities. Furthermore, the benefits of mindfulness extend beyond dealing with pain and can be used to destress, get better sleep, and live a more positive, healthy life. Hence, learning concepts and developing skills for mindfulness meditation can improve multiple areas of one’s life. That’s the greatest benefit.

6 Effective Ways of Coping With Mental Illness

pexels-photo-largeOver a quarter of adults in the country, some 26.2 percent, suffer from some form of mental illness. The categories of such vary, but the realities of having a disorder can be challenging, especially for individuals who lack therapeutic resources and actionable measures with which to effectively manage disorder. Nevertheless, to live in a way that doesn’t harm yourself nor those around you, it’s extremely important to at least have some tools to build on and develop more stability in day-to-day activities. Here are some tools for coping with mental illness, listed in no particular order.

Know your triggers:
There are a number of things which drive individuals to anger, depression or anxiety. It can happen over and over again until those things which most set you off are identified and avoided, if possible. I say if possible because there is not always a way to manage the external influences which evoke reactions within us; however, for things, people, or places that are known to be and have been perpetually problematic, it’s a good rule not to engage in those activities or with those people. Likewise, for family members assisting someone with a mental disability, take precautions for them and keep them from circumstances which may do them harm.

Communicate with someone you trust:
Simply talking over problems is such a great help. Yet, it’s important to do so with someone whom you know won’t judge you nor interrupt your thoughts with suggestions or reasons why what you’re feeling is “wrong.” This person in whom you confide should be a friend, family, or medical health professional, invested in your wellbeing and more than comfortable with hearing you out. You will be surprised with how much better you feel after being able to share your concerns, issues, or problems with someone else.

Keep a journal:
Nevertheless, there are instances in which no one is around or you may not feel like sharing. That’s ok, too. Journaling allows you to exercise those same communication skills and even provides the benefit of being able to look back and analyze and/or compare various moments. It can also be useful for when you do chat with your confidant at a future time, to provide them with insight about your experiences.

Join a support group:
Also, it doesn’t hurt to be a part of a group of people which share your problems or those similar to yours. Knowing that you are not alone, that what you deal with isn’t anomaly or something which you must manage alone is a great relief and can have a large impact on the way you manage yourself going forward.

Invest time in something constructive:
Another way to really takes one’s mind off of concerns is to do something constructive which requires focus and engagement. Studies have found that things activities like puzzles, video games, or even adult coloring books are helpful in managing behavior related to mental illness. Also, reading or crafts are highly encouraged. Plus, you’ve made something beautiful or learned something in the meantime. It’s a win-win. Keeping a few options at your disposal as not to grow weary of one particular thing to the point where it lacks enjoyment is recommended.

Spending time alone, meditating is a great tool for coping. Not only will the practice enable you to relax and ease your thoughts, repeated enough, you will be able to do it even in the midst of the most stressful situations, to further manage reactions and responses. Even those who don’t suffer from a disability enjoy meditation because it makes things so much more peaceful.

These are just a few examples of things everyone can do to better cope with the issues which life throws our way. Living with mental illness isn’t easy. However, there are things we can do to improve our experiences and quality of life overall.

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