Regular meditation may help some people with arthritis manage their pain. The deep diaphragmatic breathing involved with meditation is an effective technique for calming the nervous system, and may help reduce stress and anxiety, which can trigger painful flares for patients. Meditation induces relaxation by focusing awareness on breathing, thoughts and body sensations.
Meditation is easy to do, but its benefits come from regular, sustained practice. Meditation is not a cure; however, it may be suitable for people who may be looking for a complementary therapy to standard pharmacological treatments.
Below are a few tips to help you get started with meditation. It is important to remember that there are many different meditation techniques, and the following is just one example. There is no ‘best’ or ‘most effective’ way to meditate. Rather, meditation is an individual preference. With practice and exploration of different techniques you will be able to find a meditation style that works best for you.
For each muscle group, tense for 10 seconds and release, taking a few deep breaths as you notice sensation that comes as those muscles relax, before moving on to the next muscle group. If you find that tensing of certain muscles causes pain, skip this and focus on breathing.
1. Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths, expanding your belly as you breathe air in and contracting it as you exhale.
2. Begin at the top of your body and go down. Start with your head, tensing your facial muscles, squeezing your eyes shut, puckering your mouth and clenching your jaw. Hold, then release and breathe.
3. Tense as you lift your shoulders to your ears, hold, then release and breathe.
4. Make a fist with your right hand, tighten the muscles in your lower and upper arm, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left hand.
5. Concentrate on your back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
6. Suck in your stomach, hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
7. Clench your buttocks, hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
8. Tighten your right hamstring, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left hamstring.
9. Flex your right calf, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left calf.
10. Tighten toes on your right foot, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left foot.
If you are finding it hard to meditate, it may be helpful to have a guided meditation by a trained teacher who can help you get most out of your experience. You may also find it useful to use recordings, books, CDs or mobile phone apps, such as Smiling Mind, Insight Timer and Calm.
This resource has been developed based on the best available evidence. A full list of references is available upon request.