The Mysterious 'Medication' of Meditation
Benson says yoga, tai chi, Lamaze breathing, and repetitive prayer such as
the rosary can do the same. "They all share this common physiology," he
says. "Repetition is key to creating the response. ? So it could be a
mantra; it could be a prayer; it could be a repetitive muscular activity. The
other feature is, when other thoughts come to mind when you do a repetition,
simply let them go and come back to the repetition."
The bottom line is that any condition that's caused or exacerbated by stress
can be alleviated, says Benson. "So with 60% to 90% of visits to physicians
being in the mind-body, stress realm, you can see why this has such legion
effects. Anxiety, mild and moderate depression, anger and hostility,
hypertension, cardiac irregularities -- all forms of pain are made worse by
stress. And that's why the relaxation response is useful."
Meditation-type exercises are "virtually curative of tension-related
pain like tension headache. It's vitally important in PMS, infertility, hot
flashes, insomnia," Benson says.
Regina's doctor, Stan Chapman, PhD, tells WebMD because all relaxation
methods involve internal focus and putting distracting thoughts aside,
"they can be effective in reducing pain." Chapman is a pain therapy
specialist, psychologist, and professor at Emory University School of Medicine
in Atlanta. "There's a lot of evidence in the research literature that pain
tends to be worse when people are anxious, or when their muscles are
Relaxation methods also help with sleep, a major issue for people with pain.
"Many medications people use for sleep have untoward side effects, like
carryover drowsiness during the day which affects their ability to function,
remember, or drive, which is very critical to people," Chapman tells
But in a busy world, if pain relief is not at stake, are people making time
Schneider says that because meditation is a very natural activity, people
easily adopt it as a routine. He reports that in his blood pressure study, 80%
to 90% of people continued doing their daily meditation several months after
"The jury is in on this; it's not even a question that it works,"
says cardiologist Paul Robinson, MD, of Emory University School of Medicine.
But he has met some resistance.
Meditation has helped some of his patients, he says, but "they have to
be agreeable to the technique and willing to go through what it takes to do
meditation properly. That's one of the drawbacks, because in this country, many
people don't understand it and don't want to take time to do it."
While meditation will reduce some risk factors, like blood pressure and
excessive heart rate, you still have to watch cholesterol, diet, exercise, says
Gordon tells WebMD that aside from the health benefits, meditation changes
the way you look at the world, the way you live your life, and "that's
"If you live in the moment and are not preoccupied by the past or
worrying about the future, you've made a profound change," he says. "It
is true that meditation has important physiologic effects in terms of lowering
blood pressure, decreasing heart rate, or decreasing levels of pain, and that's
also important. ? Running may have similar effects, but it doesn?t necessarily
change your life in profound ways. Meditation has the capacity to do