Irene Campagnolo Maschio, Physiotherapist, Princess Alice Hospice, Esher, Surrey, UK, explains the background to her longer article published in the current edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care.
I’ve always been fascinated by the potential the mind has to influence our perception and reaction to physical, emotional and mental stimuli.
I still remember how, as an experiment, I decided not to take any painkillers after surgery that left my mouth with two painful wounds. Being used to meditation, I just created a quiet space and focused on my breath and body, thus making the pain bearable. What decreased the pain by another good 50 per cent was my husband coming back home; feeling safer with someone around in case of a bleed did make an immediate difference to my perception of the pain.
The many patients I met in my career displayed the same connection between pain and state of mind. At the extremes, they could either be in minor discomfort despite severe injuries or in excruciating pain without physical stimulation; between these, they showed me the many ways of coping with pain that may hinder or promote quality of life throughout difficult times.
Sometimes in palliative care, where people are faced with a life-threatening diagnosis, fear of what the future holds can be overwhelming and create a feeling of detachment from a failing body. As a consequence, emotions and thoughts can become disconnected from what is actually happening to the body, losing objectivity and the possibility to recognise and profit from inner and outer resources; that is, to live fully even within the limits given by the disease.
Mindfulness meditation can help to reconnect body and mind. It is a simple intervention that can be tailored to the abilities of that unique person and, by including body, emotions and mind, is an ideal holistic approach bridging all domains of human experience.
Although I used the word ‘simple’, I do think that good training, together with professional and life experience, is mandatory to be able to safely guide the person through this process. Even if it is all about being in the present moment, this is difficult for everyone, and in terminal illnesses it could carry all the weight of the emotional and spiritual pain the person was trying to hide.
Mindfulness meditation can promote a sense of control and acceptance over pain and life events; if this is an outcome that would be generally good for every human being, it is even more welcomed when illnesses strip people of abilities we all take for granted.
I hope this brief post has tickled your curiosity. I have left the scientific review on mindfulness meditation and pain management for you to read in my longer article in the journal.
I’d love to hear of any thoughts, experiences, and ways of delivering and results of mindfulness meditations or other similar approaches in your practice. If you’d like to comment please email me, or leave a comment below.
Sharing is caring!
Read the full article in the European Journal of Palliative Care
This post relates to a longer article, Mindfulness meditation by Irene Campagnolo Maschio, published in the November/December 2016 edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care (vol. 23.6). If you have a web-based subscription to the journal you’ll be able to download this issue, plus all articles in the journal archive.
You can also browse the archive and download articles by taking a 10-minute or 30-minute subscription. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the journal – click here to subscribe online.
EJPC Palliative Care Development Award 2017 – nominations form now online.
Do you know someone who has made a major contribution to palliative care policy development? Why not nominate them for the EJPC Palliative Care Policy Development Award? Click here to nominate. Launched by the European Journal of Palliative Care in collaboration with the European Association for Palliative Care, the award is aimed at professionals working in palliative care worldwide who have made a substantial contribution to policy development through research, clinical practice or as policy activists. The 2017 Award will be presented at the 15th World Congress of the EAPC in Madrid, Spain (18–20 May 2017). Deadline for applications: 31 March 2017.