If you are living with pain — either chronic or acute — everyday activities can be difficult, sometimes even impossible. Chronic Pain from back pain, knee pain, arthritis and other conditions, is emotionally and physically taxing, and can impact all facets of your life. There are many different treatments for pain management. You may be familiar with conventional treatments like physical therapy, medication, or surgery, but did you know that studies have shown that meditation can successfully reduce or sometimes eradicate pain, as well as lower your stress. If conventional treatments are not providing sufficient pain relief, or if you are looking for ways to deal with the stress and emotional distress of chronic pain, it may be worth it to look at including meditation in your treatment plan. Read on to learn more about meditation and its applications for pain relief.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is an ancient practice with roots in Buddhism and other Eastern religions. It starts with focusing your attention on the present moment and being mindful of your inner processes. Meditation uses different brain pathways to deal with pain from those used by other pain treatments. When you meditate, you are focusing your attention towards your pain, instead of away from it. In other words, you aren’t trying to block or ignore the pain but trying to reduce the pain by working with it. Meditation allows you to become better acquainted with your body and how it experiences pain. Instead of automatically struggling against the pain and trying to eliminate it (which can cause more stress on the body), meditation teaches you to be aware of the pain without allowing the negative thoughts and stressors to intrude. Over time, meditation may actually change your brain structure to better deal with pain.
What Does Science Say?
The scientific studies on whether meditation works to lower chronic pain have had mixed results. The wide variety of studies and methods makes them hard to compare. But the bottom line is that some studies show meditation lessens chronic pain and stress for some people. A 2016 study found that adults with chronic low-back pain who used mindfulness techniques showed improvement in functional limitation and back pain at both 26 and 52 weeks. A 2018 study of meditation, mindfulness, and the brain suggested that in the long term, meditation can change the structure of your brain. The resulting change in cortical thickness in some brain areas makes you less pain-sensitive. To be clear, meditation cannot take away the pain, but it can transform your relationship with pain.
Getting Started with Meditation
There are many types of meditation techniques you can choose from, and many people utilize more than one at a time.
- Mindful Meditation
- Body Scan Meditation
- Breathwork Meditation
- Walking Meditation
To help you get started on your meditation journey, there are many tools and resources available such as:
- Meditation apps like Headspace or Calm
- Online videos
- Professional instruction