Mindfulness as Medicine: Ease Symptoms of Chronic Pain

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Being in the present moment can make all the difference. It's easy to get caught up in our thoughts about the past or the future to the point that we're not fully aware of what's going on right here and now. But mindfulness can help with that.

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What exactly is mindfulness? It's paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment with an open and curious mind. Mindfulness can be developed through exercises or practice, and also by taking opportunities throughout the day to bring your attention back to the present moment.

All it takes is 7 minutes to give mindfulness a try. Here's a that you can do every day.

Try mindfulness for managing pain

Do you have back pain, arthritis, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, or fibromyalgia? Does it feel like you've tried everything but nothing helps?

Much of the discomfort caused by pain is actually related to our reactions to it. That discomfort can trigger thoughts like: "This is going to be a difficult day," "This is never going away," or "This is so unfair." Mindfulness helps us to acknowledge these thoughts, and then to come back to our present-moment experience. Where does it hurt? What's not hurting right now? And what's the best thing I can do right now for my own well-being?

"You can train your mind to not make an unpleasant situation worse. Instead of trying to avoid your pain, become curious about it and familiar with it, so you can learn how to manage it," says Andy Lee, Aetna's chief mindfulness officer.

Mindfulness practice helps us to build these mental skills. Research has shown that 20 minutes of mindfulness practice per day can lead to significant changes in how we experience pain. Mindfulness can also provide additional relief when combined with pharmaceutical or other treatments.

Here are some of the recent research findings about the benefits of mindfulness for pain management:

  • Mindfulness training reduces by 27% and pain unpleasantness by 44%.
  • It more effectively than education, support groups, and standard treatments.
  • It also and increases the quality of life in chronic pain patients.

Managing mental health with Medicare

Mental health conditions can affect how you think, act, and feel. Fortunately, they're highly treatable. Most Medicare Advantage plans help cover outpatient and inpatient mental health care. If you need prescription medicines for a mental health condition, it's important to make sure you sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage. Or you can sign up for a Part D plan. To see if your medicine is covered, check the plan's formulary beforehand.

Did you know: It's estimated that 25.3 million American adults suffer from daily pain. Pain among older adults is largely undertreated. And it can cause depression, anxiety, decreased mobility, social isolation, poor sleep, and related health risks,

Remember, it's always best to talk with your doctor about which treatments are right for you.

Amy Capomaccio is a health care writer at Aetna with experience in senior wellness, Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial health care. When she's not practicing new mindfulness techniques, Amy is spending time outdoors and traveling. Amy hails from Wakefield, MA and has a degree in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Tampa.