HOUSTON, Texas -- In light of the opioid crisis, doctors are searching for alternatives to help patients in chronic pain. Physical therapy, numbing creams, different drugs are all common alternatives. But here's a new one: meditation. This out-of-the-box technique helped one woman continue her favorite past time.
Helen Brindell's love for gardening is easy to see.
"It's what I love to do. It's what I love to do!" Brindell said.
But what you can't see is Brindell's chronic back pain.
"I couldn't get down like this, without a lot of pain or maybe with someone helping me up," Brindell stated.
Determined not to take opioids, Brindell was faced with a tough choice. She could get a spinal fusion to help the pain but that would mean kissing gardening goodbye.
"I was at the point where I wasn't sure what I was going to do because what I was doing wasn't working," Brindell told Ivanhoe.
That's when her orthopedic surgeon and musculoskeletal oncologist Rex Marco, MD, from Houston Methodist mentioned a third option ... a meditation app.
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Brindell said, "I don't believe it. I didn't believe it."
But Dr. Marco says there's science to meditation. Pain creates a stress response in the body that can cause anxiety ... causing a bigger stress response and more anxiety.
"It's this vicious circle which can be slowed down by narcotics or by other mindfulness techniques," Dr. Marco said.
And while opioids flood the brain with dopamine, studies show that meditation can increase dopamine naturally.
Dr. Marco said, "There is a scientific reason why this might help you."
Brindell says it has helped her manage pain. "You just feel like ... ahh."
And continue doing the hobby she loves.
"I did it! I made all that beauty!" Brindell said.
Dr. Marco recommends a couple apps to his patients: "The Back Doctor" and "Stop, Breathe, And Think." You can find both of those for free in the app store. The exercises trigger the body to make endorphins.
Health Watch: Meditation: An Opioid Alternative
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