Chronic pain is a part of daily life for millions of Americans. Experiencing severe to low levels of pain, for three months or more, is a condition that affects every aspect of a person’s life. Sufferers are to be congratulated for getting out of bed to face another day that is continually interrupted by the constant pain they must endure. It can cost them their overall health, relationships, and jobs.
Whereas an occasional headache can be easily remedied with a pill and good nights sleep, chronic pain is more subjective, and more complicated to treat. The Stress/Pain ConnectionHow people handle stress and pain is crucial. The two states are intertwined. Pain creates stress and stress adds to the pain. Stress has physical ramifications by producing cortisol, amyloid plaque and inflammatory cytokines. If stress is lessened, the pain cycle can be broken. It is for this reason that holistic and natural approaches like meditation and mindfulness are suggested as part of the overall pain management plan. Meditation and Mindfulness Make it BetterMeditation has proven to be the ultimate stress reliever. It has been studied in patients with fibromyalgia, cancer, hypertension, and psoriasis. Meditation produces a neural chemical change in the brain that normalizes hormones, blood pressure, airflow and releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Mindfulness for chronic pain has been scientifically studied and reports that pain-related drug utilization decreased while activity levels and feelings of self-esteem increased, uninfluenced by gender or type of pain.“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”-Chinese ProverbGuided meditation is the easiest option for sufferers to try because the words and instructions, combined with soothing background music, will move our focus away from the pain to flow towards the peace we long for. There are guided meditations just a click away on the phone through meditation apps or on our computers via YouTube.The following three powerful practices that combine mindfulness and meditation can be enjoyed in a comfortable position such as a reclining chair or bed and can begin today:1. Full Body Scan MeditationIt calms the physical, emotional and mental body by returning us to our natural state of deep relaxation. Begin by moving our awareness mindfully over every muscle group of the body from head to foot. Releasing stress and letting go completely while giving each muscle total awareness and focus. Mindfulness of the body is the beginning to unlocking hidden emotional and physical tension that can hide in the muscles causing physical pain. Once the body is relaxed, focus on calming the emotions with positive affirmations such as “I am peaceful”, “I am grateful” “I am safe”. We can begin to feel real peace flow through all the cells of our being. 2. Breath Meditation This is a classic way to instantly change the way we feel by becoming aware of our breathing. We take 23,000 breaths a day uninterrupted. Breathing is always there in the background. When we take the time to stop and focus on something that is always happening, for just a few minutes, we become grounded in the present moment. Why is this a good thing? We can’t ruminate over the past or feel anxious about the future when we are fully in the present noticing nothing but our breathing. Stress is immediately lessened. Start by focusing on where we are most in touch with the breath as it enters our body. The nose, chest or belly will be where we feel the breath the most. Thoughts will pop up and we will train ourselves to watch them as they float away without our attaching to any of the stories. Letting go of dramas and finding clarity in the here and the now is a healing exercise for pain sufferers. 3. Loving-Kindness (Metta) MeditationThis is a Buddhist practice that will increase empathy and instill a sense of belonging, purpose and connection to others. It allows us to bestow blessings on to someone we love, a neutral person, a difficult person and finally ourselves. The Buddha said, “No one is more deserving of our love and compassion than ourselves.” Think about it. We can be our own worst critics. This is a great way to shut down that inner negative, judgmental voice. Loving ourselves activates the body’s natural healing processes. We must be kind, compassionate and patient with the pain and the progress. Continue to do our best and be grateful for each new day that is a gift.Meditation and mindfulness are the keys to liberation from suffering, no matter what the actual cause. It is possible to be content, feel true peace, happiness and gratitude for every day just by implementing a self-care regime that includes some form of meditation.Remember that just like anything new, it is commitment, consistency and compassion that makes our experience a successful one. Start once a day, then morning and night. Like a rusty tap, you may find it is dripping at first but in time, you will be able to flow in and out of your inner sanctuary, with ease and with longer lasting benefits.