The Implications of Yoga on Chronic Pain

There has been a shift in traditional methods for treating chronic pain to more integrative approaches. These may include mindful meditation, tai chi, yoga, support groups, biofeedback, or acupuncture.

Chronic pain often leads to depression, anxiety, and deficits in cognitive processing. Chemical processing at the cellular level ultimately changes. Imaging brains of healthy individuals compared to those with chronic pain demonstrated decreased gray and white matter. Reduced gray matter is to blame for pain, depression, cognitive deficits, and decreased memory.

Recent studies, discussed by the National Institutes of Health director Mary Catherine Bushnell at the American Pain Society annual meeting, demonstrated the benefits of yoga for those suffering from chronic pain. Regular yogis had more gray matter in the areas of the brain responsible for processing pain, specifically the cerebral cortex and subcortical areas. This increase in gray matter can also improve emotional or cognitive processing. 

The positive and protective effects which yoga has on the gray matter is a great reason to consider the mind body connection and its mediation against chronic pain.