June 28, 2019
Can Meditation Ease the Symptoms of Lupus?
Mindfulness meditation can help decrease the intensity of chronic pain – according to a 2013 review published in the journal Pain Medicine. The study focuses on chronic pain resulting from various conditions, so the question remains: what role can meditation play in helping people with lupus? One 2014 study found that meditation can reduce sympathetic hyperactivity (which causes increased heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure) and improve quality of life in lupus nephritis patients with chronic kidney disease. This led the researchers to recommend meditation as a complementary treatment for persons battling this condition. Other studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can also help lower pain perception and help persons with lupus reduce stress levels.
Can Meditation Ease Stress?
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM) has found that the level of interest and openness to meditation is high in people facing chronic pain. Specifically, 39% of persons with lupus surveyed, expressed an interest in learning meditation as a way to improve health and improve stress. Meditation has been known to reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels significantly, and to improve quality of life, in a plethora of studies. The JACM review showed that many lupus patients are interested in relying less on medication due to side effects, and in embracing more natural, self-empowering therapies such as meditation. These days, meditation is easy for parents and children to practice, thanks to apps like iMindfulness, Aura, and Insight Timer. It can therefore be used by those living with a person with lupus, so as to lower stress and embrace a more positive outlook to their loved one’s condition.
Meditation and Acceptance
A 2016 study focusing on the effect of mindfulness on people with systemic lupus erythematosus came to promising findings indeed. For the study, participants took part in an eight-week mindfulness program that included breathing and ‘full awareness’ (which involves ‘keeping mind and body in the here and now’). Improvements were observed in various areas, including a person’s ability to accept, rather than fight the fact that they had to live with the disease. Improvements were also seen in participants’ ability to differentiate between their identity and the fact they had lupus, and they displayed less behavioral avoidance. Researchers concluded that because mindfulness encourages the acceptance of negative physical and emotional states, it can be considered a promising complementary treatment for persons with lupus.
A Presentation of Mindfulness and Lupus
A recent presentation at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York noted the many ways in which mindfulness practice can help people with lupus. The speaker, Dr. Ronald C. MacKenzie, noted that mindfulness can help various patients (including those with lupus) recover by decreasing pain perception, increasing pain tolerance, improving adherence to medication, and boosting motivation to make positive changes. Mindfulness can also help battle depression (and the recurrence of this mental condition), which is of great interest to people who feel overwhelmed by their condition or by their recent diagnosis.
If you have lupus and you feel stressed, or you would like to boost your pain tolerance while reducing sensitivity to pain itself, speak to your doctor about the desirability of meditation. Because this activity has no side effects and is easy and affordable to carry out, your family can join you in sessions, as a way to battle stress. Mindfulness has many more benefits – including enhanced focus and improved mood, making it an ideal pastime for anyone wishing to live more in the present.
Written by Jess Walter