Chronic pain is a complex condition involving both emotional and physical factors. Besides taking medications for pain or using natural remedies for pain, some people turn to alternative medical therapies such as meditation to better deal with chronic pain conditions and other conditions that have a psychological component.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation originates from ancient Buddhist practices and is used for a variety of conditions in which stress plays a role. Chronic pain is one of those conditions made worse by stress and meditation can make a big difference in the perception of pain.
Meditation involves finding a quiet place to lie down or sit comfortably. You start by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Focus on the in and out of the breath and breathe deeply from your abdomen.
It doesn’t matter if you breathe through your nose or through your mouth. As you breathe, you can say a mantra, which is a syllable that induces a deeper state of relaxation through increasing your focus.
Some people practice guided imagery as part of their meditative process. In guided imagery, you imagine yourself in a peaceful and serene place, such as a beach, forest, or meadow.
You imagine all aspects of the place, including the sights, sounds, and smells involved in being in that imaginary place. The guided imagery is relaxing and can cause a deeper state of relaxation in the person practicing this form of meditation.
Along with breathing is the progressive relaxation of the muscles, focusing on each of the muscle groups one at a time. In relaxing the muscles, the perception of pain is relieved and the individual feels better.
When Can Meditation Be Used?
The beauty of meditation is that, once you get the hang of it, it can be practiced just about anywhere. People have been known to meditate (with their eyes open) during rush hour traffic, when in a long line at the store, or on the bus.
Meditation can be used first thing in the morning to induce a
relaxed state of mind and can reduce the stiffness associated with many types
of chronic pain in the morning. It can be used at night before bedtime in order
to relax the muscles and ease pain before sleeping. Meditation takes only a few
minutes and can actually put you to sleep if you are relaxed enough.
Meditation-Related Activities That Reduce Pain
Meditation is part of certain exercises, such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong. These are East Asian exercises that also use the breath but incorporate movement or the use of poses in order to relieve stress and the perception of pain.
Yoga involves the use of poses or “asanas” as well as focus on the breath as in meditation. The various poses are relaxing and relieve the sensation of pain as well as improving balance and posture. Yoga can be practiced alone or in classes where yoga is taught.
There are yoga studios that teach the practice as well as yoga classes you can take at health clubs all over the US. Meditation is part of yoga but involves the use of movement rather than lying or sitting still.
Meditation is also involved in the practice of Tai chi. This is an ancient form of Chinese martial arts that has gained popularity in the US as a healing exercise. The focus is on breathing, deep concentration, and the use of fluid movements done while the person is standing.
The movements flow from one to the other and a deep state of relaxation is induced, which reduces the perception of pain. It can be done by people of just about any fitness level and takes about a half hour to forty-five minutes to do every day. Many people do it in the morning so they are relaxed throughout the day and feel less pain.