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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Mind-Body Week Presents Leading Researchers on Treating Pain

by Deborah Norris and Jessie Taylor

One in three Americans suffers from chronic pain (or least 100 million adults) indicating that pain is a pervasive national healthcare concern. Even more alarming, nearly half of all of those who suffer report that it is inadequately treated. There is new and pervasive evidence that reveals that the use of self-care therapies such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi have had great success in the treatment of chronic pain. All are welcome to attend Mind-Body Week, D.C. from April 17 to 19 in Silver Spring and Bethesda, to learn more and to get real answers about dealing with chronic pain.

At this year’s Mind-Body Week, D.C., top researchers in the field of mind-body medicine will share their findings on the clinical applications of mind-body therapies for the treatment of chronic pain. According to keynote speaker, Sara Lazar Ph.D., from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, mindfulness may alter the flow of information in our brains to reduce symptoms of chronic pain. Her research focuses on elucidating the neural mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation, both in clinical settings and in healthy individuals.

For example, in a recent study conducted by Lazar, mindfulness practitioners and a control group of non-practitioners received unpleasant electric stimuli while their brain functions were mapped by MRI. It was found that mindfulness practitioners, but not those in the control group, were able to reduce pain unpleasantness by 22 percent and anticipatory anxiety by 29 percent during a mindful state.

Joining Lazar as keynote speaker will be Chen Chen Wang, M.D., from the Division of Rheumatology at Tufts Medical Center. Wang’s research has shown that tai chi may modulate complex factors and improve health outcomes in patients with chronic rheumatologic conditions. As a form of physical exercise, tai chi enhances cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, balance and physical function. It also appears to be associated with reduced stress, anxiety and depression, as well as improved quality of life. Wang says, “Tai chi can be safely recommended to patients with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as a complementary and alternative medical approach to improve patient well-being.”

Further research by Deborah Norris, Ph.D. and Thomas Nassif, Ph.D. from the Department of Psychology at American University, evaluated the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation for managing chronic pain in U.S. military veterans who have sustained a traumatic brain injury during deployment to Afghanistan or Iraq.             In this first ever study to research iRest Meditation as an intervention for chronic pain, Norris and Nassif found statistically significant reductions in pain interference in veterans receiving iRest as an adjunctive therapy to standard medical care. This study highlights the therapeutic potential of iRest as a novel approach for those living with chronic pain after traumatic brain injury.

Locations: Friday at Silver Spring Civic Center at 1 Veterans Pl, Silver Spring and Saturday and Sunday at The Mindfulness Center at 4963 Elm St., Ste.100, Bethesda. For more information or to register, visit

May 2020



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