Acute pain vs. chronic pain
The onset of acute pain is sudden, caused by an injury like a burn or cut, a dental problem, a broken bone, or surgery. When the affected area heals, the pain usually subsides within a six-month timeframe, according to Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center. But chronic pain can continue to plague sufferers; lasting for months or even years after the affected area has healed. This occurs because the body continues to signal pain to the nervous system. The pain is real, and the effect stresses the body–and the patient. Chronic pain can immobilize patients, holding their life hostage by keeping them from their work, their daily activities, and even their social life.
"We see that for many patients chronic pain becomes a disease in its own right," according to Phillip Pizzo, MD, of Stanford University School of Medicine. "We need to address this in a more comprehensive and interdisciplinary way and include prevention as a very important goal."
Studies now suggest that meditation can reduce pain in a number of ways. Meditation can redirect attention away from the pain. It can reduce the anxiety and stress associated with the anticipation of pain. Meditation increases the production of endorphins, which lessens the pain signals to the brain, according to The National Center for Biotechnology Information.
But for those suffering from chronic pain, the benefits of meditation expand beyond pain management. The regular practice of meditation can curb impulses associated with addiction, and lessen the chance for dependency on prescription drugs or alcohol. Meditation brings a sense of calm to patients, offering a posture of acceptance and optimism.
Stress and inflammation
We swim in a sea of daily stress. We endure it; we shake it off and accept it as a part of our lifestyle. But if you suffer from chronic pain, pay close attention to your level of stress. Research indicates that inflammation associated with pain can be triggered by stress. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Pain and stress feed off one another. Pain is a source of stress.” The mind-body benefits of meditation can reduce stress and dampen the flare of inflammation.
It all begins with the breath; it’s the source and vitality of life itself. Some know it as prana, or qi (pronounced chē). Without it, we cease to exist. But most individuals don’t put much thought into the importance of the breath, or the way we breathe. We simply take it for granted.
Through the mind-body connection of meditation, we easily learn to use the breath to attain deep states of relaxation. Attaining this deep relaxation releases stress and lessens stagnant tension held in the body (or injury site) allowing our muscles to relax and soften. Meditation brings our attention back to “self,” allowing us to easily center ourselves. Daily practice reconnects us with our body in the healthiest way; we learn to accept the present fully and have confidence that the road ahead is friendly.
Meditation helps us to hit the “reset” button; allowing us to recapture the same level of happiness (or perceived quality of life) that we experienced before the injury—even though the injury and (or) pain may still remain. Meditation cultivates self-awareness; and as the patient turns their attention towards nurturing their mind, body, and spirit, they begin to heal. The pain may lessen, or it may not, but the patient’s perception of their pain is forever changed.
A new standard of healing
The world of medicine has advanced toward a new successful model of healing chronic pain. Now patients with chronic pain are treated holistically through comprehensive wellness programs; these programs are proven to be successful. This multi-disciplinary treatment method embraces counseling sessions, nutritional coaching, physical therapy, yoga, and last but not least, a daily dose of sage wisdom—meditation.