When pain has become a persistent part of your life, you may find that you are missing work, unable to get a good night’s sleep, and constantly in a state of physical discomfort and mental irritability. I often work with clients who are suffering from chronic pain and observe first-hand how it can negatively impact their quality of life and overall well-being.
Chronic pain is usually initially caused by a physical condition such as an acute injury, muscle damage, or genetic issue, There is also a strong connection between mental state and the awareness of the feeling of physical pain. Consider, for example, a soldier on the battlefield who may be so full of adrenaline that a serious injury is not even noticed until the immediate threat has passed and the mind can relax enough to become aware of the physical condition. It is this mind-body connection that makes meditation an effective tool for managing chronic pain.
Brain imaging studies have shown that mindfulness meditation has the capability of relieving physical pain without activating the brain’s opioid receptors. This means that guided meditation practice can be a viable pain-management option and may allow for the reduction or elimination of prescription medications such as narcotics and steroids.
Narcotic drugs are often expensive and can lead to physical addiction. When narcotics are used on a regular basis, a build-up of tolerance typically requires increased dosages to achieve the same amount of pain relief. These drugs may also make it difficult to think clearly, increase the chances of further injury due to the reduced ability to feel pain, and have the potential to be abused by other members of the household.
I have successfully used guided meditation therapy as an alternative treatment for clients who are suffering from chronic pain. This therapy helps to reduce pain intensity, addresses the feelings of anxiety and depression that contribute to the pain cycle, and trains the brain to simply observe and release feelings of physical discomfort. Although the pain may not be completely eliminated, meditation teaches the mind to control the degree to which it intrudes on thoughts and feelings.
Meditation as a practice involves welcoming stillness and allowing the body and mind to relax. Guided meditation elevates this by taking the mind on a journey through a series of visualizations designed to create a deeply relaxed mental state that makes the subconscious more receptive to positive suggestion. With a commitment to practicing on a consistent basis, clients overwhelmingly report a reduction in physical pain and an overall improvement in their outlook on life. While medical treatment should never be stopped without physician approval, the addition of meditation to a holistic treatment plan is worth consideration.