How Meditation Eases Chronic Pain

The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 10 people worldwide suffers from some kind of chronic pain condition, such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus.

 

The most common treatment for chronic pain is opiate pain relievers. While they may offer some relief, they only mask the symptoms for a while. The disease itself continues on in your body while you’re temporarily sedated.

 

The practice of meditation may help ease your chronic pain and assist you in tapering off prescription medications. (Always discuss weaning off medication with your doctor.)

 

 

If you are reluctant to try meditation because you think it might interfere with your religious beliefs, you’re not the only one. The good news is, meditation has no religious affiliations or spiritual obligations. It’s simply a free built-in tool you can use to ease your chronic pain.

 

 

Here is how meditation can ease your chronic pain:

 

 

1. You’ll Get to Know Your Pain

 

“What you resist, persists.” This quote comes from famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist, Carl G. Jung. It makes sense. If you’re always in pain, you’ll do everything you can to avoid feeling it. You may overdose on medication, sleep constantly, use alcohol or illicit drugs, or spend most of your time staring at the television. Anything to distract you from your body’s own horrible betrayal.

 

 

Avoidance of pain is a natural survival mechanism. Unfortunately, chronic avoidance will raise your stress levels and, therefore, your pain. 

 

Meditation allows you to get to know your pain intimately. When you get quiet and listen to your body, you’ll find it has a lot to tell you. You may discover that the pain isn’t really “all over” but concentrates mostly in your shoulders and lower back, for example.



As you relax, you may discover the overall feel of your pain. For example, it might be a hot, burning sensation. It may be a dull, throbbing ache. It could feel like spikes digging into your muscles. Going within helps you to completely identify and understand this pain. Once you can see and know this “enemy within”, your suffering will seem less overwhelming.

 

 

2. You’ll Be Able to Focus Away from the Pain

 

When you’re in pain, it may be all you think about. You may not be able to escape or avoid it at all. Instead, it consumes you from the inside out, always there to remind you that you’re weaker than those around you. Over time, this pain can turn into a feeling of hopelessness that may spiral into clinical depression.

 

 

According to the Law of Attraction, whatever you focus on, you will manifest into your life.

 

 

Meditation can help you focus away from your chronic pain. Once you’ve gotten to know it and understand it for what it is, you can train yourself to focus on just the opposite.

 

 

As you get quiet, allow the pain to recede into the background as much as you can and focus on the places in your body that don’t hurt. Feel genuine gratitude as you allow your attention to remain entirely on only those pain-free areas. Also, picture all the good people and things in your life and allow your entire being to experience those strong feelings of gratitude and love.

 

 

3. You’ll Experience a Lift in Your Mood

 

When you slow down and reconnect with your core self, your stress levels will decrease as your body and mind ease into a more peaceful state. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of focusing on just the present moment. That is, where you are and what you feel from second to second.


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When intrusive thoughts come up, simply let them go by and return your focus to the here and now. This ability to live in the present moment will help ease your pain and lift your mood.

 

 

4. You’ll Enhance Your Ability to Cope with Pain

 

After a short while of meditation practice, your ability to cope with the pain will reduce its ability to overwhelm you. You will become calm and centered so you can consciously control your emotional and physical reactions to your chronic pain.

 

 

5. You’ll Get Deeper, More Restful Sleep

 

Sleep is essential to all of us, but when you have a chronic pain condition, it’s that much more important. Ironically, those in chronic pain are least likely to get the sleep they need.

 

 

Not only is the pain physically uncomfortable, it raises your body’s stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine), making it difficult to get the rest you need.

 

 

Regular meditation will gradually reduce these hormone levels so you can experience a deeper, more restful sleep.

 

 

How to Meditate

 

There is no one meditation technique that works for everyone. You may have to try several to figure out which feels most comfortable for you.

 

 

Here are some you can use to get started:

 

 

  • Focus on Your Breath

 

Sit or lay in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Close your eyes, allow your body to relax, and take a couple of slow, deep breaths. Then, breathe normally, focusing only on the air flowing in and out of your nostrils.

 

 

Concentrate on its warmth, the way it expands your chest and belly, and the feelings of relaxation that come with it. When thoughts spring up (and they will) just return your attention back to the breath.

 

 

This takes practice so even if you’re only able to focus on your breathing for a few seconds at first, that’s good progress!

 

 

  • Focus on an Object

 

If focusing on your breath doesn’t work for you, try focusing on an object instead. This could be a lighted candle, a stuffed animal, or a glass of water.



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Anything that induces feelings of calm will do. Study the object for several minutes. Then, close your eyes and concentrate your attention on the image the object has left in your mind. Breathe normally and allow that image to become the focus of your meditation.

 

 

  • Use a Mantra

 

Sometimes the pain and negative thoughts are too overwhelming. This is when the use of a mantra can come in handy. A mantra is a thought you repeat over and over in your mind as you breathe slowly and surrender to relaxation.

 

“I am comfortable and peaceful.” “I am relaxed and free of pain.” “Every day my pain is going away.”

 

These are just a few examples of mantras you can use in your meditation practice.

 

 

  • Try Guided Meditation

 

If you’re brand new to meditation, you might try a guided meditation first. This way, you can just follow along as a soothing voice walks you step by step through each phase. You can find plenty of free guided meditations online.

 

 

  • Use Guided Imagery

 

Guided imagery is a powerful way to ease chronic pain through visualization. Sit or lay in a comfortable position and focus only on your breathing at first. Then, imagine yourself well; moving freely, laughing, and enjoying life to its fullest.


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When you see these images in your mind’s eye, really feel the relief and pleasure they bring. Experience genuine gratitude for the restoration of your whole self. When you truly believe you will get better, you will.

 

 

Being diagnosed with a chronic pain condition doesn’t mean having to suffer your life away. When you meditate, you put yourself in control by surrendering completely.


Discover More About Your Body’s Power to Overcome Physical Pain 

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Sources:

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20004298

www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

Photo of man against tie-dyed backdrop © Marquette LaForest/Flickr

About Author: Jaime A. Heidel

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