Mindful Movement for Relief
Mindful Movement for Relief
Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong Reduce Chronic Pain
by Janice Messino
The lifestyle of the modern world is harmful for human bodies. The population is aging, and with that, painful chronic conditions are also growing. Everyone is looking for answers, including addressing the psychological and physical aspects of painful conditions. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increasing number of Americans are turning to complementary health approaches such as yoga, tai chi and qigong for pain relief.
Let’s start with the science of pain and how it becomes chronic pain. Your body perceives pain when there is an injury and becomes more sensitive after the injury when a nerve or muscle is tightened. The more pain is felt, over time, the greater the sensitivity to the pain signal, and the more likely the body tells the muscles to contract. This causes muscles to tighten and sets off warning bells. The warning bells send the message to the brain that there is more pain. The experience keeps escalating as the transmission of pain signals becomes easier to send, causing an unending pain-tension-pain-tension cycle. This reaches a point where the least provocation is sensed as pain when it might actually only be mild discomfort. In the end, all pain is felt as more severe.
There is good news; this scenario can be changed. There is now growing evidence that a healthy lifestyle including regular cardiovascular exercise, good nutrition and stress relieving activities such as yoga, tai chi and qigong work very effectively for decreasing pain. These lifestyle adjustments can become a lifelong activity that shouldn’t require higher doses of pain medication because a continuous level of natural endorphins will be created through these practices. The endorphins will make natural pain relief more available. Continued daily practice is important for these practices to continue to work. Improved health will become its own reinforcement, keeping you in the habit of doing yoga, tai chi and qigong.
The practices of yoga, tai chi and qigong use movements, postures, breath and state of mind, including meditation, to approach pain relief both physically and psychologically. No need to be concerned if standing is a problem; these practices may be done sitting down.
Movements include stretching and strengthening muscles in a controlled, slow manner. This boosts blood flow, brings more oxygen to the muscles and brain, encourages healing, prevents injury, improves posture, and improves body alignment, coordination, balance, stamina and flexibility.
Breathing consists of relaxed, yet attentive breath, which stresses a calm body. Along with specific movements, the breath has been shown to lower stress and anxiety. Lowered stress and anxiety helps to relieve pain initiated by not only physiological symptoms, but emotional and psychological stress as well.
State of mind is eased via meditation, which taps into a contemplative state where the nervous system is conserving energy as it slows the heart rate. Alpha and gamma brain waves are present in deep relaxation; coupled with the movements and breath, these will lead to feeling less pain. This is specifically because of the amplified ability to think clearly through focused attention. Focused attention makes it possible to look at pain with clarity and thus derive less suffering from it. You are attending to the pain non-judgmentally, not coupling the pain with a dialogue which can be negative and reinforces the chronic pain signal.
Victor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space; in that space is our power to choose our response; in our response lies our growth and freedom.”
Yoga, tai chi and qigong practice enable us through movement, breath and mind to quiet pain signals by not rushing from sensation to pain response. The slow movements help to create a mindful state, fully focused on the present activity, quieting the dialogue in the mind. With daily practice, the chatter in the head will quiet down, further lowering the pain response.
Janice Messino, BS, owner of Create Health, has certification in Therapeutic Recreation Director, qigong, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and therapeutic touch. She is well versed in the mind-body connection and how it relates to the latest scientific breakthroughs while applying them to balance our bodies through diet, lifestyle and supplements, for overall wellness. Connect at 860-970-7383 or