Meditation Helps Chronic Pain
Wait, it is not what you think. Meditation is not all about sitting in funny positions, chanting repetitively and breathing deeply until you fall asleep. No, meditation is simply a way to interrupt your normal train of thought. And if you are experiencing pain, that train is like a freight train blowing through your mind to the point that everything seems to be erupting. Meditation can help stop that freight train from traveling at frightening speeds through your mind.
According to experts, meditation is anything that is done repetitively and interrupts your normal train of thought. The key word is “anything”. Runners find running to be meditative. Knitters find knitting to be meditative. Guitarists find strumming to be meditative. Now you are getting the picture that meditation is not all about sitting and chanting. Many things can be done repetitively in order to provoke a deep sense of relaxation. That relaxation response is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The relaxation response is a like reflex in the body that suddenly slows the heart rate, the breathing rate, and the blood pressure. When relaxation is experienced on a daily basis, big things can happen, possibly even changing the way genetic code is expressed. But when living in a constant state of stress, the body starts to wear down because our bodies are not built to live in a constant state of anxiety and stress. Even Zebras on the Serengeti plains are not constantly under pressure. Do you have any big lions chasing you lately? Chronic pain is one very huge lion indeed.
Try taking a break from this chase by meditating for 20 minutes everyday. Yes, focusing on your breath is the simplest form of meditation, also known as mindfulness. As you exhale you can repeat a word like “love” which becomes your mantra. Mantras are commonly used for transcendental meditation. But perhaps, you need something more active like knitting, cross-stitch, playing an instrument or simply drumming. In case you have never heard of drumming, according to therapists,
“We moderns are the last people on the planet to uncover what older cultures have known for thousands of years: The act of drumming contains a therapeutic potential to relax the tense, energize the tired, and soothe the emotionally wounded.”
So when you are looking for “anything” that can be done repetitively that will interrupt your normal train of thought, consider your passions, your cultural upbringing, your skills, and your resources. If you are able to work with a guide initially, you will quickly be able to master the art of meditation and slow down that freight train in your mind called pain.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.