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Will my doctor really prescribe meditation?

If New Jersey readers need more convincing about the growing number of doctors -- and medical insurance providers -- that integrate mind-body techniques into Western medical analysis, today’s story provides yet another example.

Mind-body approaches, like yoga or medication, might soon become part of the standardized curriculum for medical students. At a minimum, a recent training suggests that such training might help students become better doctors. Of the 27 students who participated in the study, most demonstrated increased listening skills, empathy and compassion at the end of their 11-week course. As a side benefit, many participants also reported lower stress levels.

The skills acquired by the study participants will likely serve them will in future patient interactions. It may also make them more open to supplementing traditional treatments with mindfulness therapies. Such practices have been found to reduce both subjective pain experiences and lower stress levels.

Individuals who suffer chronic pain -- perhaps to the extent of a physical disability that qualifies for Social Security disability insurance benefits -- may despair at ever finding a solution to their condition. Such conditions could be the result of a childhood disorder, such as cerebral palsy, or arise from arthritis or joint injuries. Whatever the origin of their condition, many patients cannot find answers through traditional approaches like surgery or medication. Instead, mind-body techniques may achieve the best results.

Part of the reason that mind-body approaches can help people with chronic pain is due to brain functioning. Diagnostic imaging tools have revealed that meditation can alter the areas of the brain that are active. For that reason, patients that have received mind-body training often report lower levels of pain.

Source: huffingtonpost.com, “Mind-Body Training Boosts Medical Students' Self-Compassion,” May 19, 2013

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