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The mind and inflammation

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Today I have a little good-news science to offer, about reducing systemic inflammation with structured chillin’ (meditation and such). The optimism may surprise some readers, if you tune in for the curmudgeonly debunking.

“Mind-body therapies and control of inflammatory biology: A descriptive review”
Bower et al. Brain Behav Immun. Volume 51, Number , 1–11. Jan 2016.

I think the paper is fairly credible: a 2016 qualitative review of 26 randomized controlled trials of the biological effects of mind-body therapies like Tai Chi, Qigong, yoga, and meditation identified “mixed effects” on inflammation (CRP, IL-6, stimulated cytokine production, yada yada yada), and more consistent results for “genomic markers.”

Based on this evidence, it seems likely — not proven, but likely — that these activities are meaningfully good for you, and probably helpful for some kinds of chronic pain.

This study is the basis for some encouraging thoughts that I’ve recently injected into The Tyranny of Yoga and Meditation Because of the inflammation connection, I’ve also cited it in Chronic, Subtle, Systemic Inflammation.