Few things can be more dispiriting and wearying than chronic pain. Unfortunately there are occasions where the side-effects of conventional medicine seem to outweigh the benefits. Sometimes we just have to face the fact that the pain is something we must learn to live with. What then? Could meditation really help? Increasingly, conventional medicine is starting to recognise that meditation has a role to play in pain relief.
It is no secret that some aspects of physical pain are affected by the mind. We’ve all heard anecdotes of soldiers in combat who do not realize at times of intense action that they have picked up a wound. Any midwife will tell you that attitude and focus on breathing have helped women endure childbirth for millennia.
Various studies have shown that mindfulness meditation, whilst not curing the causes of pain, can still significantly help reduce pain and help the patient endure pain. MRI scans show that meditation causes a decrease in activity at nerve endings and pain receptors. A study by Wake Forest University found that just a three day mindfulness meditation course was highly effective in reducing sensitivity to ‘painful electrical stimulation’. This study focused on people who were new to mindfulness meditation. It is widely believed that long-term meditation reduces pain even more effectively.
Why it is Worth Practicing Meditation
One of the wonderful things about meditation is that it comes with a range of positive side effects. If you meditate regularly you may start to feel more relaxed and less judgmental, both of yourself and of others. Regular meditation might very possibly make you more productive in everything that you try to do. It may help you to sleep at night and to be more focused during the day. So it’s is well worth the effort of incorporating some form of meditation into your daily life, particularly if you are suffering from chronic pain.
Another positive aspect of using meditation to help with pain is that it puts the sufferer in a position of control. They have the inner resources to help ease their own suffering.
How to use Meditation to Help with Pain
If you have a mindfulness app or download then you can use this. Here’s a link to guided meditations from Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers of mindful meditation in conventional medicine.
Many of the guided meditations specifically aimed at easing pain, work by helping the sufferer to approach their pain with curiosity. Is it a stabling pain, a throbbing pain or a dull ache? Does it change over time? With practice the sufferer may start to realise that pain is transient- it changes over time. They may start to feel more in control.
Meditation is most effective if you practice regularly. For maximum benefit you should aim for at least 30 minutes every day. It is much better to just do 5-10 minutes per day, every day, rather than doing one hour-long session each week. If you suffer from chronic pain then it will be well worth setting aside a set time every day for mindfulness meditation. It could be just after waking in the morning, around a meal time or just before you go to sleep in the evening. There’s really no harm giving it a try.