Mind, Body, and Behavior: Mindfulness for Fibromyalgia

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  • Mind over a Physical Matter

    Mind over a Physical Matter

    It used to be that doctors believed fibromyalgia was strictly a psychiatric problem. Now, they know that it’s a very real physical disorder. Causes may include:

    • stressful or traumatic events
    • repetitive injuries
    • certain diseases
    • a malfunction of the central nervous system
    • an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain

    Despite these physical origins, fibromyalgia can benefit from a type of treatment called mindfulness. Using the brain to calm the body, mindfulness can help relieve pain and improve quality of life.

  • What Is Mindfulness?

    What Is Mindfulness?

    Mindfulness has a number of different definitions, but they all point to the same idea—living in the present moment. One who practices mindfulness observes thoughts and feelings without reacting to them. They simply let them float in and out of the mind without judgment.

    The goal of mindfulness training is to increase your ability to be calm throughout the day, to think clearly, and to manage stress. For a fibromyalgia patient, that could mean being able to control flare-ups and reduce pain.

  • How Mindfulness Might Help Fibromyalgia

    How Mindfulness Might Help Fibromyalgia

    When pain is consistently part of your day, you can start to dwell on it. You may feel stress and anxiety about the pain you’re feeling now, as well as any pain that may occur in the future.

    Mindfulness may lead to changes in the brain that provide benefits for fibromyalgia patients. Several studies examining the connection between the two have discovered positive results. 

  • Study Shows Long-Term Benefits

    Study Shows Long-Term Benefits

    One study assigned patients to an eight-week program of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). The participants spent 2.5 hours each week doing specific exercises like formal mindfulness practice and yoga. A control group spent the time doing relaxation training and gentle stretching exercises.

    Results showed that the MSBR program was much more effective. It helped patients to experience less pain and to better cope with pain, anxiety, and depression. Patients were still experiencing improvements in wellbeing three years later.

  • How Mindfulness Works Against Fibromyalgia

    How Mindfulness Works Against Fibromyalgia

    How does bringing the mind to the present and relaxing the body help manage fibromyalgia symptoms? Scientists have several theories. In one report, doctors suggest mindfulness meditation may calm the sympathetic nervous system, reducing stress and creating a more relaxed body.

    In a 2010 study, researchers found that patients with fibromyalgia felt less pain and a higher quality of life after participating in a MBSR program. They theorized that mindfulness practice may help in various ways. 

  • Six Ways Mindfulness Acts on the Body and Mind

    Six Ways Mindfulness Acts on the Body and Mind

    Mindfulness may be able to:

    • help patients learn to direct their attention away from pain
    • inhibit the central nervous system’s ability to perceive pain, reducing the sensations the patient actually feels
    • reduce distressing thoughts and feelings that come with pain, keeping them from actually making the pain worse
    • enhance body awareness, which may lead to improved self-care
    • promote deep muscle relaxation, lessening tension and irritability
    • create a buffer against stress-related symptoms
  • Add Yoga to Your Mindfulness Mix

    Add Yoga to Your Mindfulness Mix

    Many MBSR programs include yoga as a physical form of meditation. Patients practice poses that increase flexibility and strength, while focusing on the breath and bringing the mind to the present moment.

    Some research has found that yoga exercises may help reduce fibromyalgia pain. Women who participated in an eight-week yoga program experienced the following results:

    • reduced pain by an average of 24 percent
    • reduced fatigue by 30 percent
    • reduced depression by 42 percent
    • improved sleep
    • improved energy
  • More Research Behind Yoga

    More Research Behind Yoga

    A 2011 study also found benefits with yoga. Participants took a 75-minute yoga class twice weekly for eight weeks. Results showed that patients experienced reduced pain. They also had lower levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—in their blood after completing the program.

    Another study found that a mindfulness program including yoga could help fibromyalgia patients get more out of life. Patients who participated in both yoga and meditation reported less stiffness, anxiety, and depression. More importantly, they had more “feel good” days, and missed fewer days of work.

  • Don’t Forget the Meditation

    Don’t Forget the Meditation

    Meditation is a big part of most MBSR programs. Those who practice it work on focusing and gaining distance from the constant chatter of the mind. In a study, patients who participated in mindfulness-based meditation experienced improvements in pain, fatigue, sleep, and overall wellbeing.

    Researchers stated that mindfulness meditation combines the benefits of meditation with cognitive therapy, triggering relaxation.

  • It’s the Combination That Matters

    It’s the Combination That Matters

    Mindfulness therapy combines meditation, yoga, and daily mindfulness exercises. In this way, it targets mind, body, and behavior to create results. Daily practice of all three techniques is likely to create improvements in your fibromyalgia symptoms.

Thank you!

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