Meditation found to help chronic pain sufferers

provided by Texas Tech University

In order to help treat chronic pain pa- tients, a Texas Tech Medical Center psychologist has developed an effective pain/stress management program which combines both meditation and yoga exercises in conjunction with medical and psychological treatment. Those participants who used meditation practices to self-regulate pain found remarkable results: an average of 85.5 percent reported an improvement in pain management skills.

The meditation program, now in its seventh year, was designed and led by Pat Randolph, Ph.D., director of Psychological Services in the Pain Center at Texas Tech Medical Center.

Focused on patients with chronic pain, pain which usually lasts six months or longer, Randolph has designed the meditation class to teach mindfulness or "staying in the moment" awareness.

According to Randolph, the program is based on Theravada Buddhism, an ancient Eastern doctrine which assumes that suffering and stress is part of life, but which can be relieved through an awareness and "letting go" of expectations.

"Sometimes pain is so overwhelming that it's like a big wave in the ocean that crests over your head and, for a while, you just hang on for dear life until the wave passes," Randolph explained. "When people realize that they're stuck with their pain and it's something they have to manage, then they are more open to psychological interventions."

In Western culture, people generally cope with pain through distraction or anesthesia. "However, this process is only effective for a while," adds Randolph. "Eventually your resistance to pain actually wears out."

Among the 67 patients in his study who used meditation to self-regulate pain, Ran-dolph found that 78 percent reported an improvement in subjective mood; 80 percent said their ability to handle stress improved; and 86 percent recorded a higher awareness of internal thought and feeling states. And 98 percent indicated that they had gained "something of lasting value" from the program.

"It's based on Eastern meditative practices, but it's devoid of religious underpinnings," Randolph added. "In fact, in a related study, almost 90 percent of participants indicated that the practice of meditation was "moderately" to "highly consistent" with their present spiritual beliefs, most of which were of the Christian faith."

  Contact: Liz Inskip-Paulk (806) 743-2143,