Let’s be blunt here, pain sucks, either chronic or acute. It can be physically and emotionally difficult to do everyday activities. People will experience several challenges and feel it is not worth living anymore. If we all lived pain-free and disease-free we could probably live up to the age 90. Unfortunately, that is not the reality, pain is everywhere, and it is part of being a living thing.
Meditation is a great technique to learn and to integrate into any type of pain management. To be clear, meditation is not some type of drug that can take the pain away, but it can definitely transform how you experience pain. Pain really is all in your head and it’s emotion that controls the intensity of the type of pain you’re feeling. This is where meditation can help you control and ease the pain in a calm way. In recent studies, researchers explain guided mediation for pain can be effective in helping to bring about some relief.
Purpose of guided meditation for pain
The purpose of guided meditation for pain are the various techniques used to adopt a curious mind to explore and investigate the pain. You will have to go into a deeper state of mind, and it may sound fictional to you, but eventually it would come to your senses of beginning to unwind the pain. Most people who experience pain, the first thing they do is try to push it away, wanting to end, resisting the feeling, feeling annoyed or upset. I’m sure everyone can agree to that because I have felt the same whenever I have had back pain. Meditation allows you to take a step back, no matter how long the pain lasts. Whether the pain is mild or excruciating, meditation can help change your relationship with pain.
Pain can lead to a lot of emotional behavioral changes such as anger and create things you wish you never did. Usually, in cases like these you need to know that the pain has already controlled your mind into changing your emotions and behavior. Yes, it is crazy but that’s how the factual human mind works. The more emotions and the thoughts of pushing pain away can create more pain to yourself.
Meditation is not easy. It can be difficult at first to meet all expectations. There are different types of meditations for sleep, anxiety, awareness and much more. The meditation that I will be discussing primarily is for pain. The first expectation of guided mediation for pain is that you need understand it is free and anyone can do it at anytime, anywhere. We are going to learn how to mediate without any goal in mind and better understand where the pain is concentrated. By using the CareClinic app we can track our daily process, control pain management, mood levels, and much more. Over time, with patience and practice, your mindset of pain will change naturally!
What evidence do we have on meditation for pain relief?
Based on evidential information, researchers found meditation can change the shape of your brain. Meditating regularly increases both cortical thickness and gray matter, which is the area responsible for planning, emotional regulation and problem solving. In addition, this area of the brain is also responsible for learning and memory.
So how can this relate to managing pain?
It may be shocking for a lot of you but increasing the cortical thickness and gray matter can actually lower the sensitivity of the pain. From the Department of Neuroscience of the University of Montreal a small study of mediators reviewed this topic and found that meditation has significantly decreased pain intensity in 62.5% of the 16 studies (R).
In the early 1980s, Jon Kabat-Zin and his research team discovered that those suffering from chronic pain and using the guided meditation technique saw improvements physically and psychologically. However, not only did they see improvements but were still experiencing these great improvements for up to 15 months later (R).
Another great study from 2005, showed guided meditation for pain. People who used the guided meditation technique for pain didn’t notice a change in symptoms immediately, but after a 12-week follow-up they reported significant psychological improvements. Over time, they started to realize the changes within their body and their mindset related to reduced pain. Surprisingly, people who used massage therapy have noticed it has helped to reduce in pain, however it wasn’t maintained at follow up time period (R).
In 2016, a study showed how adults used the guided meditation technique for chronic lower back pain had a great improvement in functionality and back pain at 26 and 52 weeks compared for those who have usual care (R).
What is meditation?
Meditation is a technique to improve cognitive and health outcomes. Many patients who train themselves with guided meditation have self-reported improvements of anxiety, depression, stress, and pain. At first, I thought meditation was some type of myth and how it doesn’t work. I have read many books on meditation and practiced meditation. I can now conclude meditation techniques do work.
Many people think it is hard to believe because our minds are constantly thinking and having some type of goal, or thing to do. Meditation is all about clearing your mind and having few simple minutes to spend and think about your inner self. This is what makes the meditation technique difficult for many people. Don’t get me wrong, but our minds are constantly thinking everyday and especially during times of crises. Times like these such as COVID-19 can bring up a lot of other thoughts.
The main purpose is to be aware of the present-moment experience, be non-judgmental and non-elaborative. Meditation can take practice with mental training routines and you’ll begun to notice improvements over time. It is not something you can feel or see right away, but with different practices you can sustain on the moment-to-moment quality. Some may experience the mediation benefits right away due to reaching into their inner body and mind.
Importance of breathing
Breathing is very important to understanding the present moment. There is a breathing technique that goes with meditation to acknowledge the drifting from the object of focus and by returning attention back to yourself. During breathing, the mind works by gaining mental control and stabilization of the present attention. When applied to the full extent, these practices will open up to any sensory, emotional or cognitive event that arises in the mind. The guided mediation that has been described does not require professional assessment and anyone is able to perform the mindfulness meditation (R).
How to use guided meditation for pain management?
Whenever you are in pain, find a comfortable position and start meditating for your pain. If that is sitting on chair, cushion or even lying down in bed. If having a cat or dog on your lap would make your experience better, go for it! Do what makes you feel comfortable and is the best way to relax.
There are many free guided recordings with calm music in the background or with an instructor to guide you. It is recommended to try these guided recordings for your first session,. You can find them on Spotify or YouTube. The reason for these guided meditations for pain, they will help you to quietly concentrate on your thoughts without passing judgment on them.
Additionally, you will find many other types of meditation to choose from. The guided meditation can start in various ways, but it is important to choose something you will feel more comfortable doing. Here are some possibilities:
- Mindful Meditation
- Visualization Meditation
- Body Scanning
- The Mind Illuminated
Utilizing these techniques
As I mentioned earlier, Jon Kabat-Zin previously discovered the meditation technique for chronic pain. He recommends doing mindfulness exercises as the best form of meditation for pain conditions. He stated if you practice every day for about 45 minutes, even if you think it is boring or seem like it isn’t helping much. “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it”. Being able to control your mind by focusing on this technique is relaxing. Even though it can be difficult or uncomfortable it will serve you tremendously in regards to health benefits. The main goal of the body scan meditation technique is to relieve the pain completely but first to learn and know about it, so your mind and body can mange it.
Below shows his technique for the body scan meditation (R):
- Lie on your back or in any comfortable, outstretched position.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, and feel your belly expanding gently when you inhale and receding when you exhale.
- Focus on your left foot. Feel any and all sensations in this area, including pain. Try to recede a little more into the floor every time you exhale.
- When your mind wanders, observe where it has gone and gently return your focus to the foot without judging yourself.
- If you notice pain, acknowledge it and any thoughts or emotions that accompany it, and gently breathe through it. By carefully observing the discomfort, you can help your body to relax. Don’t expect the pain to abate; just watch it with a mindful but non-judging mind.
- Gradually, let go of the focus on your left foot completely—even if any pain there hasn’t gone away or has intensified—and move on to the left ankle and repeat the process. Slowly and patiently, proceed this way throughout the body.
Have you heard about the Wim Hof Method?
The Wim Hof Method is another guided meditation that offers many health rewards. It was found from an extreme athlete named Wim Hof for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He contributes cold exposure, meditation and breathing techniques to the Wim Hof Method. Many scientists and researchers have conducted group training with Wim Hof and shown his technique allow individuals to improve the immune system and the ability to control stress. Additionally, individuals who performed the Wim Hof’s breathing exercise has resulted lower rates of headaches, shivering, and back pain (R)!
Believe it or not, I have tried the Wim Hof Method few times and I felt a lot better and relaxed. To notice the results, you will need to put full commitment on doing this method everyday for few months. Sometimes it can be challenging because you will have to focus on your breathing and nothing else. However, some people can pick it up fast and will be able to notice the results of feeling a lot more relaxed, especially when your feeling pain or stressed. For many who are experiencing aches and pain, the Wim Hof Method is a great technique on healing naturally with a simple guided meditation. Below shows the guided meditation technique from the Wim Hof Method:
- First find a comfortable place to sit or lay down
- Take 30 quick deep breaths
- Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth
- Afterwards, take a deep breath and exhale; hold until you need to breathe in
- Inhale again, deep as you can and hold it for 10 seconds
- Repeat as many times as you like!
Personalize Your Guided Meditation – CareClinic App
You’re probably thinking how can the CareClinic app help improve your meditation skills. Well, it is all about practice and focusing on the present moment, but the CareClinic app is a great start for your meditation journey. There are many features on this app that increase your meditation skills by tracking your progress, setting up reminders, reviewing reports, checking your symptoms, and many more. You can personalize this app to your own goals of meditating and the types of guided meditation technique you choose from. From tracking your medications and supplements to nutrition plans, this would be your all-around daily health app.
Being able to personalize your guided meditation can help you to achieve your goals. There are several meditations out there for every one to apply in their daily lives, but there can only be a few or one that works the best for you. The CareClinic app can help you achieve that by reviewing reports on the experiences that you encountered on trying different guided meditation methods. From this opportunity on reviewing and tracking your health, you will be able to notice the results and changes of your overall health. By having the CareClinic app on your smartphone, you have the ability to access all your personal health needs with just one click to stay healthy and up to date!
Many people tend to forget about meditating after trying it once or twice in their life. They mostly think it doesn’t work or it just seems boring. However, by setting a reminder in the CareClinic app, you can be alerted to starting your day with a 10 minute meditation or any other time and duration in the day. This way you can have your schedule organized and can go through some sort of meditation in your daily life.
The symptom tracker is absolutely a great feature for people who are experiencing mood disorders, pain, stress and other symptoms. For people who uses the guided meditation for pain, the symptom tracker is a great way to input the level of the pain and to track the progress of how the meditation technique is helping over time. This gives the confidence and motivation for people to continue on meditating for pain or any other health reasons to acknowledge the improvements on their health through the CareClinic app.
The CareClinic app includes diary entries for not only your meditating goals but also with medicine, symptoms, measurements, nutrition, fitness and reminders! Diary entries are an important factor for you to freely jot your goals, progress, and to review. With the diary entries you can write down your breathing techniques and follow up with your entries for the next day. From following your dairy entries every day, you can easily remember the breathing technique for your meditation or any other set goals you have in your lifestyle.
Not only you can track your progress, but you can add your care team to the app! This enables your health professionals to monitor your progress remotely and review reports. For example, you can express your experience on meditating to your care teams which they can provide additional feedback and discuss on alternative ways on improving with the guided meditation technique.
Living with pain of any kind can be tough, emotionally, physically and mentally. It can affect your life and your life with others. Meditation has been proven to successfully help in helping people relieve their pain. Guided meditation for pain can help you manage your pain and help you live with. The CareClinic app can be a great tool in helping you keep track of your progress.