meditation and painChronic pain is a common problem.  According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, about 100 million people in the US have some sort of chronic pain.  Not including pain from arthritis, it is estimated that about 15 percent of US adults are dealing with some kind of chronic pain.

Ongoing pain can affect every area of a person’s life.  It manifests itself in days missed from work, lack of sleep, chronic discomfort, and work productivity.  Pain is costly as many people with chronic pain see the doctor frequently and spend money on medications to relieve the pain.  Days lost from work also add to the cost of chronic pain.

Even with narcotics, chronic pain is hard to overcome.  Even patients taking morphine and oxycodone still suffer from pain and often have negative side effects such as constipation and euphoria, which can impact the person’s ability to be productive at work.

Mediation and Its Impact on Pain

Pain is affected by mental processes.  When you are distracted doing something, you can easily forget you have pain.  This is part of how meditation can work to overcome pain.  Meditation is based on ancient Buddhist principles and is a good alternative to pain medications as it works to calm and distract you from the pain you are experiencing.

Meditation has been studied hundreds of times over the last ten years.  Much of this research has focused on how meditation can help pain perception.  It also works for people with addictions to illicit substances, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and attention regulation. While chronic pain cannot be cured, the perception of pain can be altered simply through meditation.

So how does meditation help pain, particularly chronic pain that has a strong mind-body connection?  One study looked at healthy participants who underwent a MRI scan while under situations of acute pain.  Then they studied meditation for four days.  On the 5th day of the study, the patients had repeat MRI scans twice: once in the absence of mediation and once while meditation all the while under situations of acute pain.  They found that when the patient’s meditated, their perception of pain decreased by about 40 percent.

How Meditation Works

There are actually parts of the brain that are activated when meditating.  When these areas of the brain are activated, the intensity of the pain is decreased.  Meditation also decreases stress, which is a common cause of pain and which increases the intensity of pain.  It takes just a little practice of meditating before being able to feel a decreased perception of pain.

Meditation has been known to help chronic pain, such as osteoarthritis and phantom limb pain but it can also help people suffering from acute pain.  Acute pain has a lesser connection to the brain when compared to chronic pain but meditation can also be used in this type of pain.  The meditation practices are similar to that used in chronic pain.

The parts of the brain mostly affected by meditation are the anterior cingulate cortex, the primary somatosensory cortex, and the prefrontal cortex.  Pain processing, in particular, is directly related to the primary somatosensory cortex.  The anterior insula is another part of the experience of pain.  Each of these areas are affected by meditation, effectively reducing pain sensation.

Meditation can be used to treat pain that has no biological reason behind it but it can still be used for pain that is due to actual tissue damage.  This is because meditation can act on the brain, decreasing the brain’s perception of pain.  It doesn’t matter what the pain is from or whether or not it is biologically connected.  A few minutes of meditation can effectively decrease pain of any cause.

How Meditation Eases Pain, do you use mediation to ease pain, please share with us below,