The idea that chronic pain can be addressed through meditation is nothing new. For centuries people in eastern cultures have done so, and even here in western society the idea has gained widespread acceptance as such things as yoga have become a part of our own day to day life. Western medicine is still very pharmaceutical in nature however. For most people with chronic pain, that means relief will either come in a pill, or not at all.
This is a shame as very simple meditation techniques can and will bring greater relief to most people without the damaging side effects of narcotics. Avoiding the possibility of dependence and addiction make meditation a very good tool to explore if you are dealing with chronic pain.
For those with little to no experience with meditation there is a common misconception that mastering the techniques necessary to get results will take a tremendous amount of time and perhaps even study. This just isn’t borne out by what happens with most people.
Meditation, like most practices (including sports, music, crafts, art, etc.) can be approached with whatever level of depth you choose. Fortunately for most chronic pain sufferers, the skills necessary to get relief are among the easiest and quickest to attain.
A good starter exercise for beginners is the one outlined here:
The central idea behind meditation is quite simple: Silencing those voices that we play over and over inside our heads in order to easily focus our awareness where we wish. Simply being without judgement or criticism of what is.
Ironically, this isn’t achieved by thinking or studying this concept. It happens quite naturally, almost on it’s own when a few simple physical practices are done. As even many new to meditation know, breathing is key to these practices.
Two years ago, I undertook an intensive study on Zen breathing practices to see if a stricter breathing discipline would bring about greater results in my meditation. In the end, my greatest results came from returning to the very basic techniques I was already using.
Meditation can (and should!) be about doing what feels most natural to you. If you are most comfortable sitting on the floor, sitting on a chair or even lying down then that is how you should do your meditation.
The one caveat I would add is that your position should be natural, but aligned. Be sure that your “posture” is reasonably good. If you have genetically or traumatically obtained spinal abnormalities or other injuries, then your ability for so called perfect posture may be hampered. Do not worry about this, as it will not stop you from getting good results.
Pain at it’s core is a chemical message that is being sent to your brain. These messages are extremely complex, and say far more than just Ouch! They carry information on the nature, location and severity of the injury sustained. Chronic pain is simply a looping of that information.
In time, most people (even subconsciously) tend to deal with this by trying to ignore the sensation, denying it’s existence. This is self defeating. Why?!
Understanding this is a bit tricky for most people but it comes down to not being able to change something that you aren’t allowing yourself to acknowledge. How can you change what you don’t “believe” exists?
This whole process is explored in more detail in my book on relieving chronic headaches:
The goal is to be able to listen to that message without judging it as good or bad so that your nervous system knows that the message has gotten through.
With the message received, your nervous system stops relentlessly sending that same message over and over again, and the chronic pain subsides.
Relief from this method comes in as little as an hour for some. If you struggle with basic meditation, it may take you a few days to get your own meditation “rhythm” down. Don’t be discouraged. Very few people cannot get relief through this practice.
Some people get better results if they start with guided meditations. I am available for these here:
Nothing in this article should be taken as a replacement for medical care through your primary physician. This is not medical advice, and should not be considered to be. Everything outlined in this article is taken from personal experience and not from medical training.
Far too many people stop getting results from pain meds over time. These techniques are an excellent alternative for anyone needing relief from chronic pain that would like to be less dependent on pharmaceuticals.