Tag Archive | Physical Therapy

Is Mindfulness Meditation Something Christians Should Try for Pain Relief ?

One of the most difficult problems of living with one or more chronic illnesses is chronic pain. I personally have lived with chronic pain since 1975, and I’ve used a variety of treatments including over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, supplements, physical therapy, braces, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS unit), ElectroCorticosteroid and Hyaluronic acid injections, and several orthopedic surgeries in hope of relieving the pain – with minimal effect in most cases. One thing I have shied away from is mindfulness meditation for chronic pain.

Focus on the Family says of mindfulness meditation:

“Mindfulness (some use the word grounding) is characterized by meditation and relaxation techniques. The idea is to become more self-aware. You pay attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations in that moment — without purposefully deciding whether they’re good or bad, and without becoming overwhelmed or overly reactive. In short, you tune in to what’s real right now.”

Many reputable universities (such as Harvard) and medical facilities (such as Mayo Clinic) now recommend mindfulness meditation for chronic pain. What is mindfulness meditation, and is it something I should try as a Christian for pain relief?

Mindfulness meditation can be individual mindfulness meditation, sitting alone in a quiet comfortable space, usually with your eyes closed and not focused on anything specific to begin with. It often includes concentrating on various areas of your body, one at a time.

Or it may be guided mindfulness meditation, which involves listening to someone either on a recording or in person, who will prompt you to relax into a meditative state and then guide you through the meditation.

Sometimes guided meditation uses imagery, asking you to picture specific things in your mind. Guided meditation may include Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), when you focus on relaxing each part of the body, one at a time, to take the tension away from each muscle.

All of these are recommended by some physicians and counselors, so it’s important to decide ahead of time what you will do if mindfulness meditation is recommended as a part of your pain relief.

Opinions about both individual and guided mindfulness vary within the Christian community. Focus on the Family mentioned the following cautions to those considering any secular kind of meditation therapy.

  • Secular mindfulness is based on an unhealthy degree of self-focus.
  • It supports emptying the mind, which can expose people to demonic influences.
  • It encourages escape from reality.
  • It sometimes promotes a one-with-the-cosmos worldview.
  • The concept of “mindfulness” is rooted in Zen Buddhist meditation.

All of these concerns are valid. Secular mindfulness encourages you pay attention only to yourself. In contrast, Scripture teaches us to have the mind of Christ and to evaluate everything in light of our vertical relationship with God and Jesus.

Mindfulness meditation can be compatible with a biblical worldview if it is rooted in Scripture and has a vertical focus on connecting with the God who created us and loves us with an unfailing love. Some faith-based counselors use this form of mindfulness meditation as a therapy tool. If you are considering mindfulness meditation for pain relief, make sure you work with a genuine Christian therapist who will guide you to the truths of Scripture. For me, personally, the decision has been made. I don’t want to use any kind of mindfulness medication, because even when it is wrapped in biblical principles it’s still rooted in Zen Buddhist meditation.

Next week, we will be looking at Biblical Meditation, the kind of meditation the Lord clearly calls us to participate in.

Reclaiming Your Life: The Place of Self-Care in Chronic Illness Management

What do you do when there is no cure? When the doctor says there is nothing more that he can do?

That is what I faced last fall, when an MRI showed complex tearing in the meniscus of my left knee and no remaining cartilage. My orthopedic surgeon said with the severe nerve damage to that knee, knee replacement surgery had a high risk of making the pain even more severe than it already was. He suggested corticosteroid injections in the joint and physical therapy, both of which did nothing to reduce the pain.

Medical science was basically out of options. It was time to accept that the deterioration was most likely permanent. It was time to examine self-care options that would allow me to live the best I could with this new normal.

The February focus for our Reclaiming Your Life Challenge is on self-care. Self-care could be defined as the actions individuals take to lead the healthiest lifestyle possible with their current chronic pain and diseases.

Self-care is important for every part of us, body, soul and spirit. Remember, our heavenly Father cares about our whole being. Let’s start with the most obvious area, our bodies which are so greatly affected by our chronic illnesses.

SELF-CARE FOR THE BODY
God cares about how we care for our physical bodies – which if you are a Christian is the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬

What changes do you need to make to take better care of your body? Are you getting enough sleep? Eight or more cups of water daily? Do you need to eat a more healthy diet? Perhaps add more fruits and vegetables to your daily dietd? Do you need to lose weight? One thing I’ve found helpful in this area are keeping a daily log of what I eat using the MyFitness Pal app.

How about exercise? Is there a way you can become more active, in spite of the limitations caused by your chronic illnesses and pain? As 2020 began, this was an area I knew God wanted me to add back to my schedule. I was able to put together two 20-minute routines of exercises physical and occupational therapists have recommended for me over the years, some that I do in bed and others sitting on the side of the bed. Yes, there are days I don’t feel up to exercise, but on days that this is an achievable goal I start my day with some light exercise.

Another area where we can become more active is by doing household responsibilities. As this new year began, I felt the need to take over a little more of the daily and weekly housework our daughter had been doing. I’m washing the breakfast and lunch dishes, a job I can do in less than ten minutes, and one other small job that needs to be done most days. When you live with the limitations of chronic illness, pacing yourself is very important, but for me a small job that takes around ten minutes is doable, and it takes a little of the pressure off of our daughter, who deals with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

SELF-CARE FOR THE SOUL
Our souls are made up of our mind, will, and emotions. Romans 12:2 deals with our minds and thoughts. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬

Do your thoughts line up with the truth of God’s Word? Or is your thinking “conformed to this world”? Renewing our MIND to see our lives through the lens of God’s Word is an area of self-care many of us need to work on. Lasting changes, even those that mainly affect the body, must start in the mind. That’s because our actions are a direct result of what our thoughts are focused on.

The apostle Paul spoke about our WILL in Philippians 2:13, saying we are to work out the salvation God has worked in us through His Spirit, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” While God won’t violate our self-will and force us to do His will, He will work in our will to help us embrace His will and then to empower us to do it.

The third area of our soul is the EMOTIONS. A passage that has helped me many times when my emotions are out of control is found in Philippians 4. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬

SELF-CARE FOR THE SPIRIT
1 Corinthians 4:34 encourages us to be holy – set apart for God’s use – in both our spirit and our body. Just as our bodies need physical nourishment, our spirits need spiritual nourishment. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬

Do you have a daily time in God’s Word? Are you taking time to listen to see if God has some truth that you need to make it through the obstacles before you today? Reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures are spiritual disciplines that are essential to spiritual growth.

Prayer is equally important. Prayer is an acknowledge of our need for and dependence upon a God who is bigger than anything we may be facing. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭ESV ‬‬

This is no where near a complete list of all the areas where self-care would help us better deal with the daily challenges of life with chronic illness. But it gives a starting place for choosing some self-care actions that will enable you to better manage the daily challenges of your life. I encourage you to share in the comments an area of self-care that has helped you cope better with the limitations and struggles of living with chronic illness.

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