A cure for chronic pain?


Chronic pain is known to cause brain anatomy changes and impairments, but yoga can be an important tool for preventing or even reversing the effects of chronic pain on the brain, according to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) official speaking at the American Pain Society’s annual meeting…  M. Catherine Bushnell, PhD, scientific director, Division of Intramural Research, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH…

Since when did alternative treatments fall under the heading of “science”?

Let’s see, yoga can not only prevent chronic pain, it can reverse it?  Seriously?  Is this woman trying to say that yoga is a cure for chronic pain?  I wonder how many chronic pain patients this treatment has been tested on for her to make this kind of statement?

I think oncologists should start prescribing yoga for their cancer patients.  And dentists should start prescribing it after root canals.  Break a bone?  Do some yoga.  Suffer from migraines or Trigeminal Neuralgia?  Do some yoga.  (And good luck.)

“Imaging studies in multiple types of chronic pain patients show their brains differ from healthy control subjects,” said Bushnell. “Studies of people with depression show they also have reduced gray matter, and this could contribute to the gray matter changes in pain patients who are depressed. Our research shows that gray matter loss is directly related to the pain when we take depression into account,” said Bushnell…

From chronic pain immediately to depression… How many chronic pain patients suffer from Major Depressive Disorder?  Not too many, or else antidepressants would be a lot more successful in treating pain.

The side effects of living with chronic pain can easily be mistaken for depression, but these two conditions are not the same.  They are distinctly different.  But I would guess that when pain is not adequately managed, that could be a catalyst for depression.

Hey, yoga for Major Depressive Disorder too!  (And good luck.)

Bushnell said there is compelling evidence from studies conducted at NIH/NCCIH and other sites that mind-body techniques, such as yoga and meditation, can counteract the brain anatomy affects of chronic pain. “Practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain as does chronic pain,” said Bushnell.

So does eating chocolate.  Hey, chocolate for treating chronic pain and depression!  (And good luck.)

She said the studies show yoga practitioners have more gray matter than controls in multiple brain regions, including those involved in pain modulation. “Some gray matter increases in yogis correspond to duration of yoga practice, which suggests there is a causative link between yoga and gray matter increases,” Bushnell noted.

Well, if you say so…  But saying so doesn’t make it true (unless you work in alternative “medicine”).

I’m not saying that mediation and yoga can’t help chronic pain patients, but just like self-hypnosis, there will only be a small percentage of patients who are able to make these treatments work.


The revision from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) was mandated as part of the omnibus budget measure signed by President Obama… The center’s research priorities include the study of complementary approaches — such as spinal manipulation, meditation, and massage — to manage pain and other symptoms that are not always well-addressed by conventional treatments…


The relationship between chronic pain and depression is complex, and nonorganic chronic pain has been hypothesised (at least in some cases) as the expression of an underlying affective disturbance…  The DST test results did not suggest the existence of a close relationship between chronic pain and major depressive disorder; however, a wider relationship between chronic pain and affective disturbances, at least in a subgroup of patients, cannot be ruled out.

12 thoughts on “A cure for chronic pain?

  1. Actually, I spent 10 weeks in an Ayurvedic hospital in India, receiving all kinds of wonderful body work (and yucky medicines). I was very ill and weak when I arrived there. As I got stronger from the treatments, I was able to participate in the yoga classes. Over about 8 weeks I regained mobility (my body was pretty well frozen from degenerative arthritis and disc disease) , and my pain went away. I was able to walk again for short distances at first, then longer, till I was walking a mile! And pain free! I also learned a new-to-me form of meditation. I believe a lot of what happens is that endorphins generated by the yoga and meditation provide pain relief, which allows for rehabilitation. I haven’t been practicing my yoga because of (aargh) having broken my wrist while I was in India and subsequent surgery in the States, and this has set me back significantly. Then I developed spinal stenosis. So the pain monsters are back. It seems as if I’ve been cursed. First I find non-pharmaceutical pain relief and restoration of function, went back to work even, and then-wham-nope, you don’t get to have a normal life after all. Depressing? Well shit, if I wasn’t depressed before, I sure am now. (And of course, being bipolar, depression is just a part of this healthy breakfast that I don’t eat)


    • I always wonder about pain patients who say a treatment made them pain-free. Yes, endorphins are great, but I don’t believe they can totally eliminate pain. Could it be that, being bipolar, your manic states allowed you to… feel no pain? Or that your depression might have been a major source of your pain?

      But if you did become pain-free, then you’re lucky you were able to achieve that, and I wouldn’t call that being cursed.

      So, how long did this pain-free condition last? After all the extra attention you received at the hospital in India, were you able to maintain this pain-free existence at home? And are you saying that yoga doesn’t work for spinal stenosis?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wellll….the spinal stenosis has progressed since then, so I have another kettle of fish to deal with. I think if I lived there my pain would be much more under control. After all, being massaged with warm herbed oil twice a day certainly does wonders for body, mind, and soul. Mania does nothing for pain, in my personal experience. The opposite. Thankfully, I’ve been in remission for several years, with occasional relapses mostly triggered by my awful PTSD. I’ve studied the science of pain perception, and it is so individual that I don’t think any one treatment would work for every individual.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. From my research and my doctor, yoga is recommended not as a cure, but a gentle way for those of us who can barely move to get back to moving easier. I started to try yoga when I was manic and then depression dropped in for a long stay and never tried it again. I can’t say one way or the other weather it works or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think part of practicing yoga includes the ability to meditate — hard for anyone suffering from constant pain and/or depression. And I prefer walking rather than trying to concentrate despite the pain (and trying to bend my body into a pretzel).

      Liked by 1 person

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