Meditation is an ancient discipline that has it roots in both eastern and western secular traditions. Over the past several years, there has been a great deal of focus, both in the scientific community and popular press, on the health benefits of meditation. Studies have shown that those who engage in a regular meditation practice actually alter the neuronal connections in their brain, have less stress, lower cortisol levels, and several other health benefits. Mindfulness meditation has particular relevance to pain management, with an emerging body of scientific literature promulgating its efficacy. Mindfulness meditation promotes awareness of the present moment and observation of one’s thoughts and senses from a detached perspective. This has particular relevance to patients with chronic pain, for whom the emotional component of their pain can have a dramatic impact on their quality of life. Mindfulness meditation is a simple and effective discipline that can play a part in a multimodal treatment plan for chronic pain. Dr. Geula is happy to discuss this option with his patients and integrate into their overall care plan.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation refers to a wide variety of practices that are intended to produce a deep sense of relaxation, focus, or understanding. Different forms of meditation have been practiced for centuries to produce spiritual and physical wellness, and modern medicine has started to recognize the potential benefits of meditation.
Some researchers believe that early forms of meditation were featured in prehistoric civilizations. The Hindu Vedas contain some of the earliest and most recognizable references to meditative practices. In later centuries, Taoist and Buddhist practices adopted meditation, and the techniques cultivated by these groups started to spread throughout Asia by following trade routes. Centuries later, some Christian and Islamic groups incorporated distinct methods of meditating. In the mid-1900s, secularized forms of meditation started to evolve from existing Hindu techniques. Today, different forms of meditation are practiced around the world for spiritual health, enlightenment, salvation, and pure relaxation.
In modern practice, meditation is an effective tool for relaxing, regaining control, and reducing stress. With a wide variety of schools and techniques, meditation is more accessible than ever before. Physicians, therapists, psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals are using meditation as the primary or complementary treatment for a wide variety of ailments. Since 1931, research has been conducted to discover the secret to meditation’s success, but a concrete answer has not been found. However, that research does indicate that meditation is highly successful for some individuals.
How Can Meditation Help With Pain Management?
Meditation has been successfully used as part of pain management routines. Experts have found that even brief usage of meditation can increase pain tolerance and decrease pain intensity. Researchers believe that this pain relief is accomplished because the focus-based techniques of the meditation draw the brain’s attention away from the pain. The painful stimulus does not actually change, but the perception of the pain is altered. Used exclusively or as part of a larger treatment regimen, meditation can decrease sensitivity to pain and reduce the need for some medications.
Chronic pain is sometimes associated with a traumatic event, and meditation has been found to have positive outcomes for individuals suffering from depression or anxiety. Additionally, the experience of pain can be the cause of stress, so the stress reduction benefit of meditation can reduce distressing anxiety that is triggered by the pain.
Meditation can be utilized in most settings without needing fancy equipment or a supervising healthcare professional, so it is possible to implement stress reduction techniques as needed. This is particularly helpful because chronic pain does not tend to follow a convenient schedule.