Treating pain with your brain
Mindfulness can be an effective adjunct to medication for chronic pain.
Image: Tetmc/ Thinkstock
For a long time, people with chronic pain have had to make a trade-off—enduring the discomfort stoically or taking medications that pose additional health risks, including dependence and addiction. But in the last few years, medicine has added another approach that has no troubling side effects: mindfulness.
"Mindfulness is basically paying attention to the present moment without judging," says Dr. Sara Lazar, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. It is a component of many relaxation techniques, including yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, massage, reflexology, journaling, and prayer.