Attention chronic pain sufferers! Are you taking advantage of mindful meditation techniques to improve your perception of chronic pain? Don't get me wrong - this is not to say that the pain is all in your head. However, scientific studies have shown mindful meditation can enable patients to "train" their brains to perceive chronic pain as...well…less painful.
This technique can be especially helpful for anyone trying to use less opioids or other pain medications.
How do we know it works?
In 2007, researchers at the University of North Carolina conducted a trial to study the effects of mindful meditation on chronic pain sufferers. They were shocked to find that study participants' perception of pain was significantly reduced after just three 20-minute mindful meditation sessions, spread over three days.
Researcher Fadel Zeidan, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UNC Charlotte and the paper's lead author, noted, "We knew already that meditation has significant effects on pain perception in long-term practitioners whose brains seem to have been completely changed - we didn't know that you could do this in just three days, with just 20 minutes a day."
Want to try it?
According to this study, you don't have to become a dedicated Buddhist to reap the huge benefits of mindful meditation. Researchers already knew that the relaxed state of mind created during meditation produces analgesic benefits that can alter an individual's perception of pain. However, they had no idea that this effect could be gained in only 3 sessions of 20 minute meditations.
Not sure how to meditate? Take advice from our founder, Stephanie. In one of her earlier blogs, she describes how she likes to meditate:
"Easy to learn and immediate results make this one of my favorite paths to natural pain relief. Meditation comes in a huge variety of forms - some complex, some simple. My personal favorite is just to find a sound that is pleasing to you but has no particular meaning (my sound is "som"), close your eyes, sit (or lie) still and comfortably, and repeat the sound in your mind. When your thoughts wander, notice that they have wandered and return to your sound. If you feel your pain, notice the pain and return to your sound. Start with a few minutes, and gradually lengthen to thirty minutes. You will find yourself refreshed and reinvigorated, with less pain overall. Meditation can also help reduce the depression, anxiety, stress and sleeping problems that often accompany chronic pain."
As you experiment with different ways to meditate, keep in mind that according to the study, it only took 20 minutes of meditating for three days to help the study group experience less pain sensitivity - both during meditation and after.
"What's neat here is that this is the briefest known way to promote a meditation state and yet it has an effect in pain management. People who want to make use of the technique might not need a meditation facilitator - they might be able to get the necessary training off the internet," Zeidan said. "All you have to do is use your mind, change the way you look at the perception of pain and that, ultimately, might help alleviate the feeling of that pain."
Have you tried meditating to ease your chronic pain? Share your experience and techniques!
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte, "Brief Training In Meditation May Help Manage Pain, Study Shows," ScienceDaily, (2009, November 10).
- Bernhard, JD, "Mindfulness Meditation: Why to Do It and How to Do It Practice mindfulness meditation to take care of your mind," Turning Straw Into Gold, published January 20, 2012.