This is a topic that has come up time and again in my research. I have avoided it because I know so little about it. I know it is time to buckle down and learn about it. Especially if it helps my pain management. And yours! Does Meditation Help Pain?
What is Meditation?
The dictionary defines meditation as the act of meditating. Oh that’s helpful isn’t it? Synonyms are: contemplation, thinking, musing prayer. I like the example used that it is “cultivating the presence of God in meditation and prayer”.
Because I am a Christian, and I have been taught that meditation is from Eastern religion, I have avoided this topic. The eastern form of meditation calls for emptying the mind to gain oneness with the universe. This is very antithetical to what the Bible calls me to do. I am to meditate on God and seek to abide in Him. So can I safely and honestly practice meditation to manage my pain? How would that look? And would it help my pain, or only focus my mind and soul on God? Not that that is a bad thing! Because it isn’t. That is my chief aim in life; to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That said, can I combine meditation with my Christian beliefs?
I think so. And you can continue reading if you don’t practice Christianity. Because the same principles apply in practicing meditation.
Before I move on, I see the term mindfulness associated with meditation. Mindfulness is being aware of something. I think of it as disciplining my mind to focus on a certain thought. Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand. Meditation is the tool, mindfulness is the path.
How Does Meditation Help to Relieve Pain?
When we experience pain, our body releases hormones that magnify the pain, called stress hormones. Our mind focuses on the pain. We tense our muscles. Meditation can reverse that by releasing calming hormones. The calmer state of mind not only stops the body from releasing stress hormones, but also starts the body to release endorphins, i.e. feel good hormones. These hormones can be released other ways also. Some practices that release endorphins which I have used were exercise, laughing, caring for someone else. See my post here for more information. This calms the body, relaxing the muscles and joints. With that comes less pain. So meditation packs a one two punch, lessening stress hormones, and releasing endorphins. This is accomplished by refocusing the mind.
How Can You Practice Meditation to Relieve Your Pain?
There are many websites that walk you through the steps to meditate. From my research I have gleaned the basics. They are
- Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet place. You don’t have to sit in the classic cross legged position that you see in so many images. Get comfortable. Quiet is vital as it sets the environment for peace and uninterrupted concentration.
- Close your eyes. It may help to be in a darkened room, if at all possible.
- Concentrate on breathing. Simply breath normally. But notice the effects your breathing has on your body.
- Practice this for just two or three minutes.
Easy, right? The results should be that you will find you are more relaxed. As you grow comfortable with this practice, you should be able to increase the time spent. As you increase the time, you should reap more benefits. From my reading, the research says that the longer you practice meditation, the more benefits you gain. I have found this to be true with the stretches that I do. Some of these natural remedies take work and discipline and time. But I can testify that they produce results. And if I can avoid medication and surgery, then I am motivated to practice them.
I found two apps that were recommended on this website, Meditation: An Opioid Alternative. The apps are: Back Doctor and Stop, Breathe and Think. They are both free. I haven’t tried them long enough to know how effective they are, but I plan to give them serious trials.
As a Christian, my focus while I practice mindfulness and relaxing through meditation, will be to meditate on a verse in the Bible, or on a characteristic of God.
Here’s an easy 5 minute video to get you started.
Other Helpful Practices
Most of us tend to sit in a slouch position. It is the natural way we sit. But maintaining a straight spine position is helpful to relieving back and buttocks pain. Challenge yourself to maintain good posture when you are walking, standing and especially sitting. It does take practice. And it is another example of mindfulness.
Heat and Cold Pack
I have discussed this before. For temporary relief of pain you can try heat or cold. The difference is that cold reduces inflammation and heat assists in blood flow. They both act to deaden the pain. You may want to try doing both; cold for a few minutes, nothing for a few minutes, heat for a few minutes. Do not leave either one on for more than 20 minutes. Use a towel to protect your skin from the cold or heat source.
I believe meditation is a valid alternative as a pain remedy. If practiced on a regular basis, a person should find relief from their pain. I welcome your comments and questions. I am especially interested to know those of you who practice meditation and what your results are. I am also open to suggestions and corrections, as I am not familiar enough with this practice to feel I the final authority. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it is helpful and that in practicing meditation, you will find some relief from your pain.
For those of you who desire to practice Christian meditation, I recommend you start at this website. I found this helpful and challenging and plan to add it to my daily Bible study.
And if you’ve read this far, I bet you are wondering what that picture has to do with meditation? The original caption was 3 turtles relaxing on the beach in Hawaii. I don’t know, but it seems to me those guys (or probably girls, exhausted from the journey to lay their eggs) look like they know how to chill. It’s a fabulous photo, and I feel the photographer got a great shot. I want that picture in my mind; how totally comfortable they are and in the beautiful sunset of God’s creation.
I am not a health care professional, merely a pain sufferer. These recommendations are made from my research. Talk to your health care professional before you try anything new.
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2 thoughts on “Does Meditation Help Pain?”
Hi there! Thanks for sharing this one. I have some real life evidence that meditation works to relieve stress (not sure about pain). My company offers weekly yoga sessions and the end of the hour session always entails lying down with our eyes closed in silence. It’s probably my favorite part of the class (not just because I’m exhausted from doing yoga) and I always feel very relaxed afterwards. I also struggle with chronic brain fog and I’ve found doing yoga regularly can relieve some of that brain fog as well (maybe due to increased circulation). Hope this is helpful!
Thanks Carolyn! This is very helpful. In most of the research I have done I see that yoga and meditation are combined. Maybe that will be another post.