Pain affects millions of adults in the United States every year. Many times, pain is acute, lasting until an injury or surgical wound heals. Other times, it can be chronic, persisting for at least three months. The latter can be frustrating, especially when the cause is not obvious.
Unfortunately, many medications that are used to treat chronic pain can have adverse side effects, including addiction and accidental overdose. For these reasons, many people are looking for alternative pain management strategies. Research suggests that one viable option may be mindfulness meditation.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without attaching it to any feelings or emotions. Instead, it challenges a person to approach their current situation with openness, curiosity, and acceptance.
Over time, a person practicing mindfulness meditation can learn to reframe their perception of pain.
Additionally, chronic pain and stress are often interrelated, causing a person feeling stress to also experience pain more intensely, and vice versa. Mindfulness meditation can help by lowering stress, which, in turn, can reduce pain.
Mindfulness meditation also helps to focus one’s attention. In doing so, the practice can help stop someone’s mind from thinking about the pain they’re experiencing and instead focus on the task at hand.
Some people may find it difficult to meditate while sitting still. In instances such as these, mindful movement can be recommended. As the name suggests, mindful movement involves engaging in exercise while focusing your attention on your breathing and the movements of your body. In addition to the meditative benefits mentioned, mindful movement can also reduce pain by strengthening the muscles around the painful area.
Forms of mindful movement include tai chi, which combines deep breathing with flowing movements, and yoga, which uses the breath to guide the body into various poses.
Another type of mindful movement for pain is walking meditation, which involves walking while focusing on your movements and surroundings simultaneously.
Limitations to Meditating for Pain
It’s important to note that meditation is unlikely to completely eliminate pain, nor is it a scientifically proven method for pain management; there is still much research to be done before it can be recommended as a primary treatment. Instead, it may help you better manage your pain so that is not as debilitating or overwhelming.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Extend Beyond Pain Management
Research has shown that the benefits of meditation extend beyond those related to pain. People who regularly meditate often report various improvements in their physical and mental health.
Meditating for pain has been associated with:
- Increased tolerance to discomfort
- Lower rates of depression
- Improved quality of life, both physically and mentally
Whether you are looking for a natural pain management method or looking to supplement an existing pain management strategy, meditation can be a worthy pursuit with the potential to benefit many aspects of your life. To learn more about mindfulness meditation for pain, mindfulness-for-pain.mindful.org/.