Meditation for Pain Relief

Meditation for pain relief has been used for hundreds of years however only recently has meditation been recognized as an option for pain relief.

Unlike pain relief drugs, meditation to reduce pain has no side effects. However please consult your local medical professional to see how meditation can fit into your pain relief plan,

How does meditation reduce pain?

Pain is more than a physical response. It involves an emotional component as well.

Here we talk about how meditation reduces the perception of pain by:

  • relaxing the muscles
  • focusing the thoughts, feelings and emotions in the face of pain.

Meditation: pain and stress reduction

The Gate Control Theory of Pain and the empirical studies associated with this theory suggest that the perception of pain is heightened when you are stressed and anxious.

When stressed and anxious the gate is open and there is a heightened perception of pain.

Relaxation activates the descending pathway and regulates the sensory transmission of pain signals in the nervous system.

So one avenue for pain and stress reduction is through relaxation and meditation.

While there are many different meditation techniques the meditation that we are talking about here is meditation that relaxes you and trains your attention.

When you feel pain, such as the onset of a migraine or lower back pain your body typically reacts by tensing up as the fight or flight response is activated.

This tension further increases the perception of pain.

Relaxing in the face of pain is beneficial to pain relief.

Meditation and the three seats of pain

Meditation reduces the perception of pain through relaxation.

However, meditation for pain relief acts in other ways because meditation operates on the thoughts, emotion, and attention....the three seats of pain.

Have you ever noticed that when in pain every waking moment can be difficult as your thoughts are centered on your pain?

Mediation enables you to train your focus.

By shifting your attention away from the pain sensation (and sometimes paradoxically towards the pain sensation) you can reduce your helplessness in the face of pain.

Another way that meditation and pain relief may work is because meditation distances you from your thoughts and emotions.

Our thoughts can lead to frustration and anxiety.

For example negative thoughts increase negative emotions which can further increase suffering.

Meditation enhances our awareness that our thoughts are not us, and that the negative thoughts and emotions will pass.

This changes the perception of pain from "poor me" scenario to idea that pain is an unpleasant occurrence that will pass.

But meditation like any other skill, whether it is playing guitar or learning a language, requires practice.

By being able to focus your attention and relax in the face of pain is not the typical response of individuals.

A change of habit, both in thinking and behavior, is not easy for most people.

Instructions for meditation for pain relief

There are a number of meditations that you can practice in the face of pain. Here I will show you two.

Relaxed Focusing

Sit up straight in a chair and close your eyes

Take a deep breath and exhale.

Now bring your awareness to normal diaphragmatic breathing. This diaphragmatic breathing is the opposite of shallow rapid breathing which is one of the common warning signs of stress.

Now breathe in and hold for five counts

As you breathe out with a sigh imagine all the tension draining from your body.

Repeat this three times.

Now contribute with normal diaphragmatic breathing.

Search your body for any tension.

Starting at your face and moving down your body. If you feel any tension bring your awareness to the spot and as your breathe out imagine the tension draining from that area.

When you are relaxed bring your attention back to one area of the body. I find it easiest to bring my attention to the breath and focus on the area below my nose and above my upper lip.

You may notice that your attention wanders.

When this happens, similar to mindfulness meditation, congratulate yourself that you have noticed and then gently bring your awareness back the that spot you are focusing on.

The goal of this exercise is to relax and reduce the defensive struggle against pain by heightening your ability to focus.

A tip to help with the meditation for pain relief, especially if you find your mind wandering is to count your breaths on the inhale and exhale from one to ten and then repeating this several times.

I talk more about this in the zazen or zen meditation exercise.

Practice should occur for 10-20 minutes a day, twice a day. See this guide for more tips on how to meditate.

Universal light of healing

Again find a comfortable position and bring your awareness to your breathing.

Slowly relax your body using the relaxation response meditation or any other type of meditation that brings you into a state of relaxation.

After you have achieved a deep state of relaxation use your imagination and visualize a brilliant white light that is shining from above.

Some people like to see this as the light coming from God or a pure positive light.

With your imagination direct this light, with positive energy, to the area that you are sick or has pain.

Imagine this beam of pure light with the ability to heal sickness and pain, and see it healing the body part that is in pain.

Visualize that body part healing and the pain diminishing.

Allow this pure energy to remain deep within you, both during and after meditation.

Search here for other meditation for pain relief techniques

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