Does your chronic pain treatment plan call for a strong dose of meditation?
It’s a proven fact that meditation can improve your overall health, if only for the fact that it significantly reduces stress, and stress has a huge impact on all of our bodily systems. There is also evidence that meditation can affect the overall level of pain that chronic pain sufferers feel, and can even help save you money, when used in conjunction or to replace medications.
A survey conducted by the Medical Expenditure Panel in 2008 found that about 100 million adults are affected daily by persistent pain, and that number is only growing in this country, along with a super scary opioid crisis.
If you suffer from chronic pain, chances are you have some experience with narcotic painkillers. I am not here to tell you how to treat your pain, because I believe every patient’s care plan is unique to them, but I will say that meditation is a very worthwhile treatment option to try, if you are looking to explore new options.
First off, I should note that chronic pain and acute pain are two different things. Chronic pain is long-lasting, and occurs over a period of time, possibly as a result of illness or injury. Acute pain is when you hurt yourself in the moment. I am not suggesting that if you get into a car accident, you should stop what you are doing and meditate before you call the ambulance. But if pain is a part of your everyday life, then training your mind to control, or alter it could have positive effects on your pain level overall.
Your state of mind can affect your pain level, which is proven because of things like shock, where a person experiences an injury but doesn’t feel any pain until long after the adrenaline wears off. Meditation as a means to curtail pain works by decreasing activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, the area of the brain that processes pain. It can also increase activity in the four other areas of the brain, effectively reducing the pain. The easiest way to think of it is with the old adage ‘mind over matter’. Meditation won’t actually take any pain away, but it will teach you how to react to it, and control the associated emotions. Over time (although not nearly as much time as you think), your mental processes will grow stronger and you will develop meditation habits that work for you, and your particular pain.
Maybe meditation, in conjunction with medication will work for you. Maybe meditation will be so great that you will no longer need pills. Maybe you are so high-strung that you couldn’t even meditate in a sensory deprivation chamber.
All I know is, if you suffer from chronic pain, I promise you a lot of that pain comes from your mental and emotional responses to it. If you have resigned yourself to a life of pain, you should do everything in your power to lessen that pain, including learning how to sit still, be truly mindful, and take control of your own mental state.
If meditation for pain management is something you are interested, I urge you to do more research, and find a proper meditation guide that specializes in this type of treatment.