Yoga Improves Brain Response to Chronic Pain
There are many health benefits to yoga practice. Some poses ease anxiety or depression while others reduce overall stress levels. Studies have shown that yoga practice can stave off stress-related diseases, such as some forms of heart disease. Now, it is being reported that yoga can reverse some of the effects of chronic pain.
At the American Pain Society’s recent meeting in Florida, Dr. M.C. Bushnell of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health reported that chronic pain reduces the integrity of white matter in the brain and the volume of gray matter. Gray and white matter are what make up the brain. Medical Daily reports:
“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,” Bushnell added. “Our research shows that gray matter loss is directly related to the pain when we take depression into account.”
However, yogis who practiced yoga with “mind-body” techniques, had more gray matter than their counterparts. This can be an important protective or even curative factor for those who suffer from chronic pain. Medical Daily continues with Dr. Bushnell’s explanation:
“Bushnell explained an increase in gray matter in yogis suggests “there is a causative link between yoga and gray matter increases.” To put it another way, practicing yoga appears to have the opposite effect of chronic pain when it comes to the brain.”
“Brain anatomy changes may contribute to mood disorders and other affective and cognitive comorbidities of chronic pain,” she concluded. “The encouraging news for people with chronic pain is mind-body practices seem to exert a protective effect on brain gray matter that counteracts the neuroanatomical effects of chronic pain.”
Those who practice yoga regularly may receive more benefits than just stress relief and increased flexibility. It can help the brain better deal with pain and make the use of addictive medications obsolete in all but the most acute cases.