Medical News Today recently reported on a study of the effects of zen meditation on pain management. The goal of the study was to see if experienced meditators experienced pain differently than non-meditators. Joshua Grant of the Université de Montréal who was in charge of the study said, “While previous studies have shown that teaching chronic pain patients to meditate is beneficial, very few studies have looked at pain processing in healthy, highly-trained meditators. This study was a first step in determining how or why meditation might influence pain perception.”
In the study, 13 zen meditators with at least 1000 hours of meditation under their belts underwent a pain sensitivity test with a control group of 13 non-meditators. A heat source was placed at varying degrees of temperature on the calf muscles of the subjects intermittently. Not surprisingly, there was an observable difference between the two groups. The meditators breathed an average of 12 breaths per minute, while the non-meditators breathed roughly 15. The meditators also reported 18% less pain than did the control group. Grant concluded, “While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators.”
This example is just one of many reporting benefits of meditation on chronic pain levels. So how do you use meditation for pain management? A great way to begin is by thoroughly stretching out your muscles. This will help get your blood circulating. Once you are stretched out, get into a comfortable, upright, seated position in which your posture is good and your chin is up. Remove any distractions from the room. Close your eyes and begin to breathe deeply. Breathe in through your nose and exhale out through your mouth. Draw out your breaths making them long and slow. Focus your attention on your breathing.
Many chronic sufferers prefer what is called guided imagery meditations to manage their pain. The easiest way for a beginner to do a guided imagery meditation is to buy a CD for this specific purpose and listen to it. The guided imagery meditation CD will lead you through the entire process from start to finish. These meditations are called “guided” because you are listening to a voice on the CD lead you through what to do. The term “imagery” refers to the meditation asking you to visualize and create mental pictures. For example, for pain management, often meditators will visualize the area of their pain being soothed by a protective bubble of soothing energy or their tumors being flushed out of their bodies and so on.
The techniques of Shinzen Young are also highly recommended for pain management meditation. Visit Shinzen.org to learn more about his innovative techniques. Be sure to check out the synopsis of his book Break Through Pain under the “Articles” tab.
~ Jillian Avey, purelifemeditation.com
image courtesy of Axel Kramer