By Dr. Nichole Chaviano, PT, DPT
ProFysio Physical Therapy
Although they might not be thought of as sharing a common origin, the words meditation and medicine actually both stem from the latin word mederi, which means “to heal.” We often lean on the traditional offerings of Western medicine like medication, surgery and therapy when looking for healing and pain relief. But opening ourselves to the addition of meditation or mindfulness techniques that compliment treatment for various ailments offers additional opportunities for enhanced healing and pain mitigation.
But what is “mindfulness” exactly? The American Mindfulness Research Association defines it as the “state, process, and practice of remembering to observe moment-to-moment experiences with openness and without automatic patterns of previously conditioned thoughts, emotions, or behaviors.” Studies demonstrate that mindfulness techniques can be practiced to great benefit in a wide variety of circumstances.
One of the most interesting and fruitful areas of research demonstrates that mindful-based therapy decreases pain from a wide variety of medical causes including cancer, multiple sclerosis, musculoskeletal and pain disorders, and can also improve tolerance to physical activity. Mindfulness also benefits patients by reducing anxiety and enhancing well-being.
As the body adjusts to an illness or disability, there is a benefit not only to working toward physical rehabilitation or the external restoration of body functions, but also to nurturing an inner adjustment to new bodily experiences. Indeed, in the case of physical therapy, mindfulness interventions add an extra but complementary dimension to the outer work of healing the body, fostering inner work that contributes to healing.
There are several simple mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques. Some, introduced more than 30 years ago by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, are frequently employed alongside a traditional physical therapy routine and may provide a strong beginning if you are looking to incorporate some of the positive results of mindfulness-based therapy into your outlook. To get started, find yourself a quiet place and give one or more of the following a try.
- Body Scan: Non-judgmentally focus on each part of your body from head to toe, breathing and relaxing.
- Sitting Meditation: Pay mindful attention to your breath or the rise and fall of your abdomen, maintaining without judgement your awareness of thoughts and distractions flowing through your mind.
- Hatha Yoga Exercises: Simple stretches, breathing exercises and postures designed to relax and strengthen the musculoskeletal system.
A well-trained physical therapist can work with you to incorporate these and other mindfulness techniques into a recovery plan, helping you to develop a mindful response to a wide variety of specific ailments that may bring you pain. All mindfulness exercises for pain management work best in addition to an all-inclusive evaluation performed by a physician or licensed physical therapist. Doctors of Physical Therapy are able to identify a range of solutions to manage pain and support movement. If you have limited activity levels or persistent pain, you should consult a Doctor of Physical Therapy who specializes in a holistic treatment plan, supporting your external healing with mindfulness techniques to improve outcomes.
Dr. Nichole Chaviano, PT, DPT serves as the clinical director of ProFysio Physical Therapy’s East Brunswick location. She earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Rutgers University, and is experienced in a variety of orthopedic conditions with manual therapy techniques and therapeutic exercise. She is passionate about providing personalized care for each patient to maximize their quality of life and achieve their individual goals while reducing the risk of reinjury.
ProFysio Physical Therapy has four convenient locations in Old Bridge, Holmdel, Aberdeen and East Brunswick. Call 732-970-7882 to schedule an evaluation.