Research has shown that meditation helps relieve symptoms associated with arthritis including pain, stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Some studies suggest the meditation may work toward balancing the immune system and promoting healing.
Meditation techniques are geared toward quieting the mind as well as relaxing the whole body. There are many meditation techniques or types of meditation. Some, but not all, are associated with religion and spirituality.
Mindfulness meditation (also referred to as Vipassana meditation) focuses completely on your breathing. It may be helpful to take deep breaths when practicing mindfulness meditation, but not necessarily. It is important to breathe in slowly, hold, and breathe out slowly. You may find it's not quite as easy as it sounds because your mind will start to wander. When that happens, refocus on your breathing; the goal of mindfulness meditation is to remain in the moment and be aware of what you are doing at any particular moment.
Transcendental meditation is another well-known meditation technique. With transcendental meditation, a mantra or holy phrase is repeated over and over to allow thoughts and feelings that develop to pass by and not be distracting.
Researching Meditation and Health Benefits
Major universities have studied the stress management and health benefits associated with meditation. Though there have been hundreds of studies, not many focused on the effect of meditation on arthritis symptoms. Several studies did specifically show that meditation was effective for fibromyalgia patients by affecting pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance.
Stress has been associated with the flaring of arthritis symptoms. Meditation alone or in combination with other relaxation techniques (yoga, Tai Chi, etc.) helps to manage stress. Meditation has also been shown to affect other physical parameters, including heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol level, brain activity on MRI, and possibly immune function. More research is needed to find answers to still-puzzling questions: Why doesn't every patient benefit from meditation? Does meditation only help highly motivated patients?
It's definitely worth a trial, but patients are advised not to give up their conventional treatment when they begin meditation, or even after experiencing some improvement in symptoms.
Don't give up because you lose concentration. Results will not be immediate; mindfulness meditation takes practice. The Arthritis Helpbook by Kate Lorig, R.N., Ph.D. and James F. Fries, M.D. suggests practicing mindfulness meditation for fifteen to thirty minutes a day, four or five times a week.