Chronic pain has many faces, ranging from migraines, injury and arthritis to fibromyalgia, lupus and even cancer. Many pain sufferers rely on medication to find relief yet find they either aren’t as effective as they should be (either from the start or as a tolerance to it develops over time) or an additional method of coping may be required.
Meditation is proving to be the technique of choice for many struggling with chronic pain, as reports and studies come out confirming it as an excellent method for effective pain relief.
How does meditation work?
One of the most commonly known uses of meditation is for stress relief and it works in much the same way for pain management, by allowing the mind to focus on the “now”, the present. This places you more in the role of actively observing than in directly experiencing the pain. Deep breathing is often incorporated, as are visualsations, both working to hold your attention to this state, while also acting to relax your mind and ease muscular tension, which often aggravates the sensation of pain.
This reduction of stress creates an environment that facilitates other benefits, such as an easing of the anxiety and depression that often result in dealing with chronic pain, as well as regaining one’s ability to get a good night’s rest. Improved rest helps the body properly recover from each episode and further cope with painful symptoms.
Emerging Information on Effective Pain Management through Meditation
There are many studies out currently that show meditation as very useful for pain sufferers, as it works on a variety of levels within the brain and, as a result, throughout the body, particularly with nerve response.
One such study, conducted by Dr. Fadel Zeidan of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the U.S., asked volunteers take part in 80 minutes of meditation training, then allow themselves to be tested on their pain response during a meditating session. It was found that the reduction of pain intensity was 40%, with a 57% reduction in pain unpleasantness. This was relatively high, compared to drugs like morphine and other pain-relievers, which is stated to have an effectiveness rate of only 25%.
Another, similar, study was conducted at the the Université de Montréal by Dr. Pierre Rainville and went a bit further to determine whether meditation is more effective as a habitual practice. After studying 13 Zen meditators and 13 non-meditators, it was concluded that the Zen group were well-trained to control the pain response and suggested the Zen concept of mindfulness allowed for a “passive self-regulation” which enabled them to largely ignore the pain.
Meditative Pain Relief from a Personal Perspective
No matter how many studies there are, nothing compares to the personal accounts from people who have experienced it for themselves. Whether suffering from neuropathy, fibromyalgia or another painful condition, these are the people who get the most from the meditation sessions. Their accounts can be read here and here, as well as other places throughout the Internet, often speaking of the same struggles even in the face of different diagnoses. In each of these cases, meditation gave them back their ability to cope and live a full life, in spite of the pain.