How Meditation Helps With Chronic Pain
What is meditation?
Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years. It involves focusing on the present moment while observing bodily sensations, including pain. Meditation helps retrain the brain. For those with a chronic pain condition, the goal is to relax and accept discomfort, which can increase the tolerance for pain. Additionally, when stress is reduced and relaxation occurs during meditation, endorphins (“feel good” hormones) are released.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation can quiet the mind, reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, and remove the perception of pain by activating brain areas that process pain. Extensive research has been conducted on the physical and emotional benefits of mindfulness meditation and how it can effectively help to manage pain symptoms. Peacefulness and calmness that occurs through meditation can improve overall well-being.
Even a minimal amount of time committed to learning meditation can create positive results for relieving pain. A study has found that pain was significantly reduced after three 20-minute sessions of mindful meditation spread over three days. Research has also shown that meditation yields lasting results. People found that even after the end of their meditation sessions, they experienced a reduction in their perception of pain.
How does meditation help with chronic pain?
Meditation does not replace conventional medical treatments for health conditions. However, used in conjunction with other treatment plans, it may help reduce stress and ease chronic pain. Stress is the body’s emotional, mental and physical response to any change that requires adaptation or reaction. When stress is severe or persistent, it can negatively affect mental and physical health. Stress causes tension in the muscles, which can cause or increase pain, especially pain in the neck, shoulders and back.
The brain is constantly trying to inhibit pain signals, especially if a chronic pain condition is present. However, when a person is stressed, the brain’s ability to hinder those signals is reduced, which increases pain. Meditation reduces stress and triggers the release of “feel good” hormones, or endorphins. These endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers. While meditation itself cannot stop pain, it can reduce the perception of pain and ease muscle tension.
Improved emotional and physical well-being
Emotions and constant thinking contributes to everyday stress. However, meditation provides both physical and emotional benefits. Examples include the following:
- Better sleep quality
- Enhanced skills to manage stress
- Focusing on the present
- Greater patience
- Improved self-awareness
- Increased creativity
- Less negative emotions
- Reduced blood pressure and resting heart rate
What does meditation help with?
Meditation is not a replacement for traditional medical treatment; however, it may prove beneficial to practice with other treatment options. Many medical conditions are worsened by stress, and stress causes increased pain sensitivity. Meditation is helpful with managing symptoms and reducing stress. Research suggests that meditation may be beneficial for certain symptoms, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Tension headaches