World over people are suffering from inflammatory conditions like inflammatory bowel syndrome, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Stress is considered to be a major cause of these chronic ailments. Recent study on alternative therapies for chronic inflammatory conditions by researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison has revealed that mindfulness meditation techniques benefit people suffering from these conditions. The results of this study were published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
Meditation has been used in stress relief since long, but until now there has been no empirical study on the subject. Stress reduction classes help you manage stress by suggesting therapeutic physical activity. In this particular study two different methods of meditation were compared – one was the mindfulness approach and the other was a regular health enhancing approach. This study was named Health Enhancement Program in which the participants were divided into two groups. The participants of the first group were required to follow a set of nutrition guidelines, physical activity, music therapy, walking and core strengthening exercises. These were designed on the same lines of mindfulness except the mindfulness aspect itself. The second group was made to follow the same program with the addition of mindfulness aspect to whatever they were practicing.
Comparison of the Results
The results of the study were compared using 3 tools:
- A Trier Social Stress Test, a tool to induces psychological stress on the participant
- A Capsaicin-based cream to produce inflammatory reaction on the skin
- Immune and endocrine tests to measure the effectiveness of the methods used
The tests used to determine the benefits of the two techniques showed that both of them provided relief from stress. The main difference was in the amount of relief obtained in stress-induced inflammation. Mindfulness meditation technique was found to be more effective in reducing inflammation caused due to stress than the other one which was performed mechanically. The results therefore proved the researcher’s point that behavioral intervention such as mindfulness meditation techniques help in relieving symptoms of chronic inflammation and can be a safer alternative compared to conventional medications.
Conclusions & Suggestions
The technique of mindfulness meditation is useful for relieving inflammatory conditions but not a treatment in itself. It is just complementary to the already available treatments. Most pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for inflammatory conditions only help suppress the condition for a while and aid in suppressing the pain. Mindfulness meditation on the other hand is a low-cost, side-effect free alternative that has proved effective in the people who have practiced it as per the training imparted to them.