Reduce Your Chronic Pain by Half through Meditation
"It is like turning down the amplifier on a stereo. The input is the same, but your experience of pain is turned down" - Dr. Sean Mackey, Stanford University
Chronic pain in the form of migraines, lower back pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia can be debilitating and prevent you from performing the most basic daily tasks.
Resorting to drugs and powerful analgesics is usually only an ineffective stop-gap measure with severe side-effects.
Now, a groundbreaking study (by Catherine Kerr, assistant professor of family medicine at Alpert Medical School) shows that we have more control over our perception of pain than we might otherwise think.
Pain is part of our primal fight-or-flight response and a simple breathing meditation, which slows down the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and reduces the secretion of cortisol, can act as an alternative to pain medication.
- Using guided imagery fools our mind and body into thinking that something we are imagining is actually happening
- This releases opiate like substances that reduce pain, relax muscles and reduce stress
- Imagining the buoyancy of water and seeing yourself floating in it can relieve joint pressure and pain
- Staying mindful of the pain without getting caught up in it dramatically reduces the experience of pain
- Simply witnessing the painful sensations and not resisting them lowers sensitivity to pain not only during meditation, but also during periods when not meditating
- Speaking positive phrases while focusing on different parts of the body stimulates the autonomic nervous system that relaxes your body
- Being able to relax into pain instead of tensing against it is the most critical thing you can do alleviate your suffering
- Use the following phrases:
- my arms are warm and heavy. I am happy, peaceful and free from suffering
- my legs are warm and heavy. I am happy, peaceful and free from suffering
- my body is warm and heavy. I am happy, peaceful and free from suffering
- my heartbeat is regular. I am at peace
- my breathing is rhythmic. I am at peace
One of the easiest meditation you can do to manage chronic pain is breathing meditation.
- bring your attention to the tip of your nostrils
- inhale in one long breath and observe the flow of air as you breathe in
- feel your belly move out as you fill your lungs with air
- exhale in one long breath and feel the warm air caressing your nostrils on the way out
- if pain raises its ugly head and distracts the mind, gently bring the mind back to focus on the breath again
- don't get frustrated if the mind continually wanders due to the pain
- as soon as you become aware of the distraction, think of the breath and re-focus on inhaling and exhaling
- do breathing meditation for 10-20 minutes
The simple act of not engaging the pain and staying focused on the breath makes the pain lose its hold on you.
Through meditation you gain control over your cortical alpha rhythms — the synchronous firing of a population of neurons in the brain at a specific frequency.
These rhythms help control how the brain processes sensory information, such as pain, and negative emotional states, like depression. They also help organize the general flow of information in the brain.
Better control of these rhythms enables meditators to bias their attention away from negative states like chronic pain and depression.
A regular meditation practice will help you overcome debilitating pain without medication, so give it a try. In addition to the four methods above, you can also use these meditation techniques.
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