Have you ever felt overwhelmed by chronic pain? This is how meditation can help.
If you’re struggling to find lasting relief from chronic pain, you’re not alone. It is alarming that 100 million adults in the United States are suffering from chronic pain. Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion people suffer from pain that lasts for weeks, months, and even years.
First, let’s clarify the difference between acute pain and chronic pain. Acute pain is our body’s natural response to injury. When we have an unpleasant fall, stress, tears, tears, and infections can cause immediate, severe pain that usually resolves once the injury has healed.
However, chronic pain lasts much longer. It is often felt at the site of a previous injury (but not always). This can take weeks, months, or even years after the injury has healed.
Getting pain relief cannot be as easy as going to the doctor. According to Dr. John D. Loeger, neurological surgeon and pain specialist, chronic pain is a complex phenomenon involving biological, psychological, sociological, or environmental factors that dynamically interact with each other. This makes diagnosis difficult and may explain why we often need more in many treatments.
Typical Western physicians are not trained to advise on the lifestyle, relationships, social life, careers, environment, or mental state of patients. Most doctors are trained to prescribe narcotics, therapy, and surgery to treat physical symptoms. These treatments are beneficial under certain circumstances, but, as we now know, there are many other factors to consider. Simply prescribing painkillers ignores the psychological, emotional, and social aspects of pain, and long-term dependence on painkillers, especially opioids, can further damage a person’s physical and mental health.
The good news is that there are healthy ways to minimize chronic pain that can avoid the need for surgery or strong narcotics. Exercise, relaxation, and distraction techniques help, but meditation can dramatically improve pain perception in adults.
Research shows that meditation impacts our chronic pain in multiple ways:
- It’s fast and powerful. A study from Wake Forest University found that participants who practiced mindfulness meditation for three 20-minute sessions spread over three days significantly reduced pain compared to other cognitive techniques used.
- It’s a relief that lasts. In the same study, researchers found that patients who meditated had a reduction in their pain perception even after the sessions ended. This means that the pain can continue to go away long after the meditation has ended.
- It’s more effective than being distracted or just relaxing. Compared to activities that distract our mind (such as solving a math problem) or relax (such as lying on a sofa or listening to music), meditation is key. A few minutes of meditation outweighs the benefits of other cognitive pain relief techniques by 40%!
So while meditation may not be a panacea for chronic pain, it does provide significant and lasting relief.
But how exactly does it work? Simply put, meditation is a powerful stress and tension reliever. It helps the body to relax, heal, and release stored emotions, which can have a lot to do with chronic pain. Meditation helps us in two ways:
- Eliminate long-term stress and tension. Meditation activates your body’s internal healing and relaxation mechanisms while releasing stored thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. When we sit down to rest in meditation, our mind is occupied with thoughts. This is how our body releases old emotions and tensions. That is why it is so important to allow the process of reflection and to welcome your experience without judgment or tension. When we take this hospitable approach to our meditation, the immune system, blood pressure, parasympathetic nervous system, and circulation improve. During this time, our muscles and fascia relax to allow proper circulation.
- Reconnect our brains to release pain. Meditation helps us create and strengthen positive neural connections in four areas of the brain used in the treatment of pain: our primary somatosensory cortex, anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and our prefrontal cortex. It decreases the intensity of the perceived pain faster than you can say, “Let it go.”
When we meditate, we feel happier, with less pain and more control over our mind-body system. The best news is it’s completely free, anyone can do it (including you), and it’s 100% natural and has virtually no side effects from surgery and narcotics.
How to Practice Meditation for Natural Pain Relief
An easy way to start is to rest in a chair for five to 10 minutes with your spine straight, your feet on the floor, and your palms on your knees. Set a timer for how long you want to meditate. Welcome, everything to your experience with open or closed eyes. Thoughts, emotions, sounds, sensations, and instincts – everything is fine. Your job is simply to achieve what it is without trying to control anything.
Your breathing is an easy starting point. Watch your inhale and exhale, and the space in between. When you notice the physical sensations of your breathing, let your breathing calm you. Be curious about the rhythm, depth, and essence of your breath. After a few minutes, you may want to close your eyes and notice the sense of relief you feel. Continue this sweet realization for the next few minutes.
It’s that simple! Take this daily exercise and your body and brain will certainly thank you.