The idea of using meditation to ease pain is not a new one, and there’s been a lot of scientific research in this area.
Just last year researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that participants in their study, who were actively meditating, reported a 32 per cent reduction in pain intensity.
“We feel like we are on the verge of discovering a novel non-opioid-based pain mechanism in which the default mode network plays a critical role in producing analgesia. We are excited to continue exploring the neurobiology of mindfulness and its clinical potential across various disorders.”
– Senior author and associate professor of anesthesiology, Fadel Zeidan.
Of course meditation doesn’t cure pain, but it can alter the way we interact with it.
Our usual response is to try to stop pain, to push it away, separate ourselves from it and to use pain killers.
That’s a completely natural reaction – and there’s nothing wrong with taking medication – but if we can change our relationship with pain, even just a little bit, that has to be a good thing.
For many years now I’ve had pain in my ankles thanks to osteoarthritis.
I remember a bushwalk we did a few years ago, when the pain was becoming increasingly intense, and I was starting to become concerned that I wouldn’t complete the walk.
I tried a very simple technique of using my breath.
Visualising my breath flowing into my ankles on the in breath, and the pain flowing out on the out breath.
I kept my mind very focused on my breath the whole time, and I completed the walk.
Here’s a very simple mindfulness meditation you can try, don’t have any expectations and remember it’s called a ‘meditation practice’ for a reason!
Find a comfortable position – in a chair or lying down – and allow yourself time to settle.
When you feel ready, take a few deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Allow you breath to return to its natural rhythm.
If you feel comfortable to do so, close your eyes.
Do a gentle grounding – focusing on what you can feel and what you can hear.
Guide youself through a slow and gentle body scan, starting either at your feet or the top of your head and moving through your whole body.
Observing any pain, sensations, tightness, or tension as you go.
Gently bring your focus back to your breath and if you have a particular area of pain you want to focus on, visualise breathing in to this area.
Allowing your breath to fill the area with a sense of gentle softness.
As your breathe out – visualising the pain flowing out of your body.
This meditation can be a short practice or as long as you want, just be gentle and don’t judge yourself (‘am I doing it right?’), just go with the flow.
I’m about to have surgery on my first ankle and trust me, I’m going to be using this meditation technique a lot over the coming months of recovery.
Of course there will be pain killers involved too, but the meditation I can do anywhere and it’s absolutely free.