Neuroscientists at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City have used Naam meditation along with music from the Healing Beyond Medicine Music series created by Dr. Joseph Michael Levry to reduce pain in children being treated for a rare form of cancer, subsequently reducing the need for larger doses of medication during treatment.
Naam meditation was offered to families several days a week by experienced instructors. In many instances, parents, translators, and family members also participated. Specific mantra soundtracks, “Ra Ma Da Sa”, “Guru Ram Das”, and “I Am” provided by Dr. Joseph Michael Levry, were played on an MP3 player in the background while an experienced meditation teacher taught and led the mantras. These mantras are used traditionally to build self-esteem, peace, and resilience. Mudras (hand gestures) and gentle breathing patterns (left nostril breathing, long exhalation, alternate nostril breathing) were interspersed with mantras to help relieve tension and enhance relaxation and focus. On an average, the meditation instructor stayed with the patient for approximately 30 minutes.
Patients undergoing therapy for neuroblastoma experience severe generalized pain that is poorly controlled with conventional analgesics, including opioids. Nonpharmacologic interventions have the potential to reduce pain, anxiety, and analgesic requirements associated with this treatment that is now considered standard of care for high-risk neuroblastoma. Naam meditation therapy administered on an outpatient basis to children receiving immunotherapy was feasible and well tolerated by children of both sexes, aged 3 to 14 years with diverse language and ethnic backgrounds. It was observed that a single session of Naam meditation was associated with a 14% decrease in the amount of pain medication administered to manage pain per day of treatment. These pilot findings were so substantial that the study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology and an additional grant was issued for continued study.