Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MySpondylitisTeam

Meditation Techniques To Ease Symptoms: Q&A With Dr. Blazer

Posted on May 19, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Torrey Kim

When you’re dealing with joint stiffness, pain, and other symptoms of a chronic condition like spondylitis, you may not immediately think of turning to mindfulness practices to help ease your symptoms. However, studies have shown that incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your daily life can not only help ease psychological symptoms like depression and stress, but it can also help with physical symptoms.

“Meditation plays a huge part in coping for me,” one MySpondylitisTeam member wrote. Another said, “It's tough to focus on anything other than how bad you feel. I find mindfulness and meditation to be very helpful.”

To find out more about how meditation can help contribute to wellness, MySpondylitisTeam sat down with Dr. Ashira Blazer, a rheumatologist and assistant professor at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine’s division of rheumatology. Dr. Blazer shared information about how mindfulness can contribute to positive outcomes in people with chronic conditions, and she also provided a walk-through of a meditation exercise.

Can you share how and why stress can prompt flares in people who live with chronic inflammatory conditions?

Stress management is so incredibly important, and we know this because our patients tell us all the time, “When I get stressed out, I get a flare.” There are a lot of biological reasons for that. There are also reasons related to just the stress itself.

We know that autoimmune patients can have secondary fibromyalgia, meaning that patients who have these inflammatory conditions can also get a chronic pain condition that goes along with it. One of the reasons why we develop that is because, as we try to treat ourselves to help with the pain, we tense our muscles. We're not walking the same way, and so what this is going to do is allow for tension to settle into the muscles. We’re tense, and we don't realize it.

That creates a feedback loop, because the tension causes anxiety. We're used to being tense when we're anxious, and so the mind-body connection can reinforce this pain. In addition, the stress of having poor stress management can lead to an increase in some of the body's inflammatory signals that precipitate flares in the first place.

Can you explain why mindfulness and meditation are beneficial when it comes to dealing with stress and pain?

I always say that pain is a combination of emotional and physical pain. There's the pain that we feel in our bodies, and then there's the pain that we feel emotionally. We are afraid of what we can't do, or we're afraid of pain that might happen in the future, and that anxiety just worsens the pain that we feel. So what we really need to do, especially in these very uncertain times and then with chronic illness — which can layer on to the uncertainty — is to train our minds to be in the present.

A lot of times, our minds are worried about the past or worried about the future. Maybe we've got depression, we've got anxiety, there are so many things we're going to do — our minds are darting back and forth from one thing to the next, and we forget how to be in the present. Meditation really allows us to take advantage of the fact that, in the present space, we have all that we need.

What should people know about meditation?

A lot of people think meditation involves going into some trance-like state, or they get frustrated with themselves because their mind wanders. Know that the mind is going to wander. This is why it's meditation practice — you are practicing.

Whenever your mind starts to wander and you notice it, say to yourself the word “peace.” And then bring yourself back to the meditation. Don't get frustrated with yourself. This is a time to be kind to yourself.

You also want to make sure that you're in a relaxing environment. You want it to either be quiet or you may want to have nice music — whatever is most relaxing for you. You can darken the room a little bit. Make sure that it's cool and that it’s an inviting environment. Some people like aromatherapy, such as lavender, for engaging the sense of smell.

When you're setting up for a meditation, you want to feel balanced in your body. So that might mean leaning back in your chair or lying flat, whatever works best for you.

Is meditation still effective even if your mind wanders?

Absolutely, yes. Exercising your mind is like exercising your body. You may not be able to do 20 pullups right away, but as long as you're practicing, your muscles are getting stronger. It’s the same with meditation. Over time, eventually your mind will wander less and less.

How often should someone meditate to get maximum benefit?

Meditation is being kind to yourself, so I recommend doing it at least three or four times a week.

It shouldn't take very long to do. You can just do it before bedtime if that’s easier. It only takes a couple minutes, and it does wonders for helping you regulate your mind, especially your anxiety.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On MySpondylitisTeam, over 64,000 people living with spondylitis come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with spondylitis.

Have you found that meditation helps ease your joint pain? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References

  1. Mindfulness Meditation: A Primer for Rheumatologists — Rheumatic Diseases Clinics of North America
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Torrey Kim is the managing editor at MyHealthTeams and has over a decade of experience writing about medical conditions. Learn more about her here.

A MySpondylitisTeam Member said:

It took me going to a doctor just for arthritis to get mine my hips hurt also and more joints but from what I have read about it it can affect all your joints

posted 20 days ago

hug (2)

Recent articles

Spondylitis is a condition that may cause symptoms such as numbness or weakness in the legs. As a...

Spondylitis and Numbness or Weakness in Legs

Spondylitis is a condition that may cause symptoms such as numbness or weakness in the legs. As a...
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and spondylitis are both chronic inflammatory disorders that may cause...

Is Your Joint Pain RA or Spondylitis? Your Guide

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and spondylitis are both chronic inflammatory disorders that may cause...
Psoriatic spondylitis, also called psoriatic arthritis (PsA), is a type of spondyloarthritis....

Psoriatic Spondylitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Diagnosis

Psoriatic spondylitis, also called psoriatic arthritis (PsA), is a type of spondyloarthritis....
Because the physical impact of spondylitis can be all-consuming, you may be dealing with...

How Spondylitis Can Affect Your Mental Health

Because the physical impact of spondylitis can be all-consuming, you may be dealing with...
Download the FULL recipe from this video here.Spondylitis causes inflammation, and people living...

Can Diet Help Ease Your Spondylitis Symptoms?

Download the FULL recipe from this video here.Spondylitis causes inflammation, and people living...
People with spondylitis often face such symptoms as joint pain and stiffness, and the thought of...

Guided Stretching and Exercises for Joint Pain With Dr. Navarro-Millán

People with spondylitis often face such symptoms as joint pain and stiffness, and the thought of...
“Anyone dealing with chronic illness of any kind can really come up against challenges,...

Watch on Demand: Mental Health and Arthritis

“Anyone dealing with chronic illness of any kind can really come up against challenges,...
If you live with an autoimmune disease, it's critical to take care of your well-being, and one...

Cooking With the Arthritis Foodie

If you live with an autoimmune disease, it's critical to take care of your well-being, and one...
“The worst exercise is the one that is not done.”Dr. Iris Navarro-Millán shared this important...

Exercise and Meditation for Joint Pain and Stiffness

“The worst exercise is the one that is not done.”Dr. Iris Navarro-Millán shared this important...
Nonradiographic axial spondyloarthritis is an early form of spondyloarthritis that doesn’t show...

Intense Pain, Invisible Damage: What X-Rays and MRI Can’t Reveal

Nonradiographic axial spondyloarthritis is an early form of spondyloarthritis that doesn’t show...
MySpondylitisTeam My spondylitis Team

Two Ways to Get Started with MySpondylitisTeam

Become a Member

Connect with others who are living with spondylitis. Get members only access to emotional support, advice, treatment insights, and more.

sign up

Become a Subscriber

Get the latest articles about spondylitis sent to your inbox.

Not now, thanks

Privacy policy
MySpondylitisTeam My spondylitis Team

Thank you for signing up.

close