How does meditation work for pain management?


Chronic pain patients are often tired of hearing advice about managing their pain. Well-meaning friends and even some physicians may tell you things like yoga or a more positive attitude will make your physical pain go away. While the thoughts are hopeful, they often belittle the genuine pain that a chronic pain patient is in all the time. 

These platitudes often leave you feeling misunderstood, maybe even patronized. “How can they tell me to think more positively, as if that will suddenly make my pain go away?” 

In many cases, chronic pain is much more than psychological and needs actual medical intervention to be solved. However, there is something to the idea that you can control your pain with your thoughts or control how much that pain limits your life. 

The Science Behind Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation is gaining increasing attention in the American medical community, and there’s no surprise as to why. Though its effects have remained a mystery helped by Eastern alternative medicine for centuries, we are finally catching on to the actual medical benefits of mindfulness as a pain and stress management technique. 

A 2017 review of medical research on mindfulness meditation found that “Mindfulness meditation has a most prominent effect on psychological aspects on living with chronic pain, improving associated depression and quality of life.”

Similarly, a 2020 study of 28 chronic pain sufferers who took a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course found that “MBSR classes were found to benefit participants with chronic pain and depression in this setting, fostering significant improvement in participant perceptions of pain, mood, and functional capacity.”

While mindfulness will not make your pain go away, it can help you overcome its debilitating effect on your daily life.

An Easy Way To Start Meditating

Meditation doesn’t have to take up a significant portion of your day, and you don’t need any equipment to do it. If you’re starting, this is an excellent method for meditation that will quickly become a part of your routine if you stick to it. 

  • Choose a simple activity that lasts 10 minutes or less. Meditate while drinking your morning cup of coffee, while walking the dog, or make 10 minutes before bedtime to sit and relax with your thoughts. 
  • Choose a time and place. To make meditation an effective routine, try to do it simultaneously and at home every day. 
  • During your activity, focus on your physical sensations. What does it feel like to put the coffee cup to your lips? What does it taste like? How does it feel to breathe in and out? These physical sensations are often overlooked, but you gain new awareness of your body and mind by taking them in. 
  • Let your thoughts come and go. Many of us struggle to tune out our inner monologues, especially those filled with negative thoughts or feelings about pain. As you’re meditating, close your eyes and listen to these thoughts. Let them come and go, and think about them as separate from you. Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you have to claim it or identify with it if the thought no longer suits you.
  • Take deep breaths. Breathing more profoundly not only improves your feelings physically but can help you focus on your body rather than your mind. This simple, soothing action will help you center yourself and control your mind. 

Meditation can help manage flare-ups, control your pain levels, and help you get through the day even when dealing with aches and soreness. However, meditation is often not enough to make chronic pain bearable long-term. If you are interested in comprehensive pain treatment, talk to your local PPOA clinic to schedule a consult.