Does Meditation Help Relieve Pain?

A woman with her eyes closed

Being in pain is stressful. Stress makes pain feel more severe. More severe pain causes more stress. More stress makes pain feel more severe. It’s easy to see how vicious this cycle is and how quickly it can snowball. Fortunately, this cycle may be broken for some people willing to try non-conventional methods.

Meditation is a common tool for many pain specialists. Meditation encompasses a number of awareness techniques designed to quiet the mind and relax the body. There are two primary forms of meditation, transcendental and mindfulness. Transcendental meditation involves a person repeating a word or phrase, known as a mantra, in order to allow other thoughts or feelings to pass by. Mindfulness meditation, however, involves a person focusing all of his or her attention on his or her thoughts and sensations. Mindfulness meditation is the more commonly used form for stress-reduction.

There is evidence that mindfulness meditation may reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, while increasing self-esteem, physical activity levels, and tolerance for pain. These combined benefits often lead to a decreased dependency on painkillers, and may benefit patients suffering from a number of chronic pain conditions. Meditation may be done by one’s self or in a group led by a healthcare professional.

Meditation cannot cure chronic pain conditions. The goal of meditation is not to remove all pain, but simply to make pain more manageable. Meditation is meant to allow a patient to be aware of the negative feelings he or she has about his/her pain by emotionally disconnecting and viewing the situation objectively. This may break the vicious pain-stress-pain-stress-pain cycle. Breaking this cycle may allow the patient to stop focusing on the negative and embrace the positive. Pain may still be present, but may feel less all-consuming and intrusive on the patient’s life.

Though meditation may help relieve the effects of pain, it is still important to identify and treat the underlying cause of the pain. Pain may be your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, and it is important not to ignore those warnings. Meditation may make symptoms bearable, but conventional medical treatment may prevent underlying conditions from getting worse.


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