Many of the 100 million or so Americans who suffer from some type of chronic pain fail to experience meaningful relief from traditional treatments alone. Pain management efforts sometimes require the exploration of what some people consider alternative solutions, with one such option being meditation.
Changing How the Brain Processes Pain
Case studies on meditation and chronic pain suggest that such relaxation techniques may reduce activity in the part of the brain that controls and interprets pain. It’s believed that the act of meditating gives the brain something else to focus on besides the pain itself, which results in the perception of less pain.
Going Beyond Physical Causes of Chronic Pain
There’s often more than one source of chronic pain beyond what may be physically causing it. With non-specific low back pain, for instance, there’s no identifiable source of the discomfort even though the pain experienced is very real. Meditation primarily targets emotional and mental sources of pain by:
- Improving concentration
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Boosting overall happiness
Learning How to React to Chronic Pain
With meditation, people learn how to react to pain beyond thinking, “Oh, that hurts.” The purpose of most forms of meditation is to teach the person doing it to realize that pain will pass. Doing so allows the focus to be less emotionally based, so when some degree is discomfort is experienced, it’s kept in perspective.
Easing Nervous System Stress
The stress and anxiety that sometimes goes along with chronic pain aggravates discomfort by causing reactions within the nervous system. When practiced on a regular basis, meditation can ease stress and even help minimize depression and other emotional conditions that may be experienced by someone living with chronic pain.
Fitting into Other Treatment Plans
It’s not one or the other with meditation when it comes to treating chronic pain. Some health professionals may minimize meditation since results are highly subjective. Meditation itself does not interfere with medications a patient may be taking to manage their chronic pain. There’s also evidence suggesting regular meditation may play a role in:
- Encouraging better sleep patterns
- Reducing inflammation that often contributes to chronic pain
- Naturally lowering blood pressure
Meditation comes in more forms, including transcendental meditation, seated or Zen meditation, Kundalini yoga, and mindful meditation. Regardless of the form preferred by a chronic pain sufferer, there are positive benefits for most participants. Risks associated with meditation are minimal or non-existent, according to available research.