Meditation app offers alternative to opioids for pain

Studies show that meditation can increase healing naturally

Helen Brindell's love for gardening is easy to see. 

"It's what I love to do," she 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," she said. 

Determined to avoid taking opioids, Brindell faced a tough choice.

She could have gotten 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," she said. 

That's when her surgeon, Dr. Rex Marco, mentioned a different option: a meditation app.

"I didn't believe it," Brindell said. 

Marco said there's a science to meditation.

Pain creates a stress response in the body that can cause anxiety, which has a ripple effect. It causes a bigger stress response, and thus more anxiety.

"It's this vicious circle, which can be slowed down by narcotics or by other mindfulness techniques," Marco said. 

Opioids flood the brain with dopamine, but studies show that meditation can increase dopamine naturally.

Brindell said it has helped her manage pain and continue gardening.

"You just feel like, Aah," she said. 

Marco recommends two apps to his patients, The Back Doctor and Stop, Breathe, and Think.

The exercises are what trigger the body to make endorphins.