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November 19, 2010 > Do You Suffer from Chronic Pain?

Do You Suffer from Chronic Pain?

Washington Hospital Class Shows How Yoga Can Help

If you suffer from chronic pain, you know it can take a heavy toll on your life. It can keep you from enjoying time with friends and family, and even affect your ability to perform everyday tasks like bathing or dressing.

"Chronic pain can cause frustration, anger and depression," said Bonnie Maeda, RN, a certified yoga instructor. "Yoga can help address some of the physical pain you feel as well as the emotional and spiritual pain that often accompanies it."

Maeda will present "Yoga and Chronic Pain" on Tuesday, December 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. The class is part of Washington Hospital's Totally Good Information for Females program and will be held in the Conrad Anderson Auditorium A, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. You need to preregister for the class, which is limited to 15 participants. To register and prepay the $15 fee, call (510) 608-1301.

The class is open to women who are dealing with pain on a regular basis. Some of the most common causes of chronic pain include arthritis, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, and cancer.

"Even if you have limited mobility, this class can help," Maeda said.

She will start the class by discussing different types of pain, including physical, emotional, and spiritual, and how they are all interrelated. She will help participants understand the pain response and how negative emotions like fear, anxiety and depression can intensify pain.

"Understanding how pain affects you emotionally is critical," Maeda said. "Pain can interfere with living, and that takes an emotional toll, which can make pain worse. For example, depression can deplete your energy, making it harder to cope with the pain."

It is also important to be able to identify and assess your physical pain, she said.

"Is it sharp or dull; steady or intermittent? You need to be able to accurately describe your pain to your physician," she explained. "Write it down so you can give your doctor a clear picture of what's going on with you."


Moving Toward Relief

According to Maeda, yoga can help decrease physical pain while improving your ability to cope with it. "Yoga helps you get in the moment, concentrate on the here and now so you can cope with what is," she explained. "The focus on breathing and relaxation also reduces stress, which is important because stress causes muscles to tighten and hurt."

Studies show that gentle stretching and movement can decrease the intensity and duration of pain, according to Maeda. It helps to reduce muscle stiffness and tension, alleviating pain along the spine, including in the shoulders and upper back, she explained.

She will first teach the class a gentle yoga sequence while participants sit in a chair.

"We begin by being aware of what is going on with the body and honoring the body for where it's at," she said. "Body awareness is critical. You need to be aware of your body so you know what you can and can't do; know your limits so you only do what is appropriate and keep your body safe. Body awareness also helps you stay present, be in the moment."

She will guide the group through movements that increase range of motion by gently stretching major joints like the shoulders and hips. Next, participants who are able to stand will learn some gentle poses that increase circulation and respiration.

"Breathing is very important," Maeda said. "Anyone dealing with chronic pain and stress tends to have a shallow breathing pattern. Yoga gets them breathing deeper, which helps bring oxygen to the brain and other major organs. Deep breathing also helps to alleviate depression."

Yoga can also help participants feel more control over their bodies, which also improves their ability to cope with pain, Maeda explained.

"Resistance to your situation can often cause more pain," she said. "A lot of people who suffer from chronic pain are very hard on themselves. My goal is to help people be kind and compassionate toward themselves. The class is a way to see if yoga can help you feel better and talk to others who share your struggles."

For more information about other programs and services offered by the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.

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