MINDFULNESS & PAIN CONTROL
7 Benefits of Using Mindfulness Meditation as a Tool for Pain Relief
We all experience physical pain at some point in the course of our life. However, the degree to and frequency of which we experience pain differs greatly for each of us. But one thing is for sure - being in pain is unpleasant, no matter who you are or what type of hurt you’re living with at the time.
While there are myriad ways to heal, treat, and manage pain available to us, including especially popular techniques such as physical therapy and painkillers, sometimes we might prefer a more natural approach. That is where mindfulness meditation comes in.
In this article, we’ll outline 7 benefits of using mindfulness and mindfulness meditation as a tool for pain relief.
1. Mindfulness can help alleviate stress.
It is no secret that living with physical pain can - and typically does - lead way to mental stress. Although the exact link between the two is yet to be fully understood, studies show that chronic pain and chronic stress go hand in hand.
High levels of stress can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, heart disease and a slew of other issues. These components of stress are especially problematic for individuals living with physical pain because they further complicate an already trying situation.
One of the key benefits of mindfulness is that even a brief period of practicing this ancient technique can alter psychological and neuro-endocrine responses to stress.
2. Mindfulness has been shown to lessen depression.
Many people who live with physical pain also suffer from depression. Similar to the cyclical relationship between stress and pain, depression can often lead to pain and vice versa.
According to one study, the prevalence of pain symptoms in patients with depression ranges from 15% to 100% while the prevalence of concurrent major depression in patients identified as having pain ranged from 5% to 85%.
Depression dampens your life. While medications and forms of talk therapy can be helpful, mindfulness is also a great tool to incorporate. The reason mindfulness is such a useful tool is because it helps you to be aware of what you’re doing, while you’re doing it.
Since depression often comes along with persistent negative thoughts, awareness in the current moment can help offset harmful thinking patterns by redirecting the sufferer to what is happening in the present.
3. Mindfulness encourages acceptance.
Nobody enjoys pain. However, those who have learned to accept their pain tend to live a more peaceful existence.
Acceptance is a key aspect of living a good life. While this might seem counter-intuitive, try considering that this practice is not about liking what’s happening but instead fully accepting it as reality.
The ability to accept negative emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations, without judgment helps you avoid exacerbating and prolonging their impact.
Tara Brach, a contemporary Buddhist teacher, psychologist, and author of the book Radical Acceptance said it best, “the boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.”
4. Mindfulness attacks the three major components of pain.
According to the current research, the three major components of pain are physical sensations, emotional response to the sensations, and social effects of the experience.
Mindfulness can aid you in deciphering the distinction between these three occurrences, which helps decrease the difficulty connected to your pain - without necessarily diminishing the pain itself. It can also encourage you to view your pain more healthily, empowering you to live life to a fuller degree.
5. There’s science to back up the effects of mindfulness.
It’s validating to know that current research can back up what we’re being told about mindfulness as a relief tool for a growing number of ailments, including physical pain. One particularly useful brain study traces the neurological underpinnings of pain and how mindfulness can help in treating it.
The caveat here is that - because mindfulness has been the center of much hype and popularity - it is important to recognize that it is by no means a cure-all. While the research we have now is promising, we still need much more to fully understand the full benefits of mindfulness to people suffering from all sorts of ailments.
6. Mindfulness alters the way your brain perceives pain.
In relation to the study mentioned above, we now know more about the connection between the brain and our experience of pain, as well as the ways mindfulness can assist in alleviating this type of suffering.
One of the most impressive facets of mindfulness is its ability to alter the brain. Given the fact that an estimated 100 million Americans suffer from some sort of pain, it is no surprise that mindfulness has become so popularized.
A 2011 study found that when experiencing pain, people who meditate had heightened activity in brain regions linked with processing the physical sensations associated with pain by affecting the primary and secondary somatosensory areas, insula, thalamus, and mid-cingulate cortex.
7. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at any time.
Perhaps one of the most obvious yet overlooked benefits of mindfulness as a tool for pain relief is that it can be practiced at any given moment, in any given situation. This sets mindfulness part from more traditional methods such as pain medication and physical therapy, two treatments that are limited in terms of accessibility.
Put most simply, mindfulness is the practice of becoming fully present and aware of the current moment without judgment. It is a matter of paying attention to the thoughts, feelings, and sensations going on within you and simply observing this natural ebb and flow.
That means no matter where you are, whether you’re at a meeting at work, picking up the kids from school, or simply relaxing at home - mindfulness is at your fingertips.
These are only a few of the many benefits mindfulness can offer as a tool for pain relief and pain management. As stated above, everyone is different and therefore, you should approach your personal experience with pain and its role in your life in a way that makes the most sense for you.
Mindfulness can make a world of difference, but it is best paired with other treatment methods that you and your doctor have found to be the most effective for your circumstances.