You may feel the pain of osteoarthritis in your wrists or knees, but the pain actually starts in your brain — in the same place you process fear and other emotions.
Researchers at the University of Manchester Rheumatic Diseases Centre in the United Kingdom studied brain images and discovered that arthritis patients seem to associate the pain with fear and distress. Learning to manage those emotions may also help you control the pain in your joints.
Do Your Om-Work
Zen meditation, the ancient practice that can provide mental, physical and emotional balance, may also reduce pain, according to University of Montreal researchers. In a study published in the January 2008 issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers found that people who meditate are less sensitive to pain.
Here is a sample meditation, courtesy of the Online Meditation Center:
Sit comfortably with your eyes closed and your spine reasonably straight. Hold your hands in any position that feels comfortable.
Direct your attention to your breathing.
When thoughts, physical sensations or sounds occur, simply accept them, giving them the space to come and go without fighting or judging them.
When your attention drifts, bring it back to your breathing.
Continue for 10 minutes.
The scientists compared the pain reactions of 13 highly trained Zen meditators with 13 non-meditators. The volunteers had a computer-controlled heating plate pressed against their calves at heats ranging from 109 degrees to 127 degrees. The meditators required significantly higher temperatures to elicit pain.
The researchers theorize that the concentration skills and the slower breathing practiced during meditation can influence the perception of pain.
In China, health care providers have used acupuncture for thousands of years to treat all sorts of conditions, including pain. Research suggests these healers may be on to something.
A landmark study published in 2004 in the Annals of Internal Medicine involving 570 patients showed that acupuncture relieved pain and improved function in people with osteoarthritis of the knees.
— by Dana Sullivan