Question: Are mediation, prayer, and/or support groups effective in treating pain associated with osteoarthritis?
Answer: Another aspect of integrative medicine is this focus upon the mind/body/spirit relationship. And you know I think most people's grandmothers would have been able to tell them the way you feel emotionally affects the way you feel physically. But today we've got entire bodies of research called psychoneuroimmunology that really are showing scientifically how the way our mind thinks affects both our neurological function and our immune function. And so what are the things that people can do in their own lives who have chronic pain -- chronic pain from osteoarthritis or pain from other sources. I think that what we're finding in the research is that meditation, relaxation therapies, things called progressive muscle relaxation, where you sort of tense the muscles and relax in a progressive way, you know, starting with the feet, moving up, that these actually can reduce the need for pain medication by up to a third. And you may say, "Well gosh, they're still taking pain medication. I still have to take my pain medication." I would tell you if you could cut your pain medication down by a third, that's significant. Not only because you have fewer side effects from the pain medications, but because I think there's something very empowering about knowing that within your own locus of control, you can affect and impact your pain. And so you would have to find yourself. For some people this may include prayer or a formal religious type of gatherings. For others this may be more of meditation. For others it could be as simple as buying a CD down at the book store on progressive muscle relaxation and practicing this at home. But this is the part we often leave out in conventional medicine is this powerful inner relationship between our mind and our spirit and our physical wellbeing.
So, I think that any practitioner that's really practicing in a holistic framework, really treating the person and not the disease, you're not osteoarthritis, you are a person who's living with osteoarthritis, that we really have to get in and sort of address, you know, how are people feeling in their lives, and how can we bring it to a more spiritually rich and fulfilling place.