Stop the Pain

Meditation and yoga have proved to be key in treating chronic pain in addition to drug therapy.

By Camille Chatterjee, published on September 1, 1999 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Chronic pain is so elusive that the drugs prescribed to treat it are often ineffective. But a study shows that the power of the mind goes far in treating aches in the body.

Patrick Randolph, Ph.D., and colleagues, from Texas Tech University, have created a Pain and Stress Management Program (PSMP) based on Eastern meditation techniques, which, when combined with medication, improve patients' pain symptoms significantly better than drug therapy alone.

The PSMP is an eight-week regimen that uses Buddhist discipline of "mindfulness meditation"—moment-to-moment awareness of what our bodies are doing. The discipline's goals are to understand one's mental processes, develop the power to control these processes and gain freedom from one's mind-set.

Study volunteers, who had all suffered from chronic pain for at least six months, were taught hatha yoga and meditation in two-hour classes. A year later, the patients undergoing medical treatment and the PSMP reported that their feelings of pain decreased by 79%; their ability to handle stress improved by 80%; and 98% believed that they had learned key coping skills.

"Chronic pain is treated more effectively with a multidisciplinary approach," says Randolph. "it cannot be harnessed using treatments that solely address the body."