How to use meditation for pain relief?

With its origins in ancient religious and spiritual traditions, meditation is a widely used mind-body practice used even today, to complement medical procedures and treatments.

Although, used mostly for relaxation and stress reduction, meditation-based therapy is increasingly offered in medical centers and clinics today to manage pain and reduce anxiety prior to surgeries. Surprised? Recent studies have shown that frequent practice of meditation can lead to significant control of pain. Read on to know how meditation alters your pain perception and quells pain even better than some of the most powerful drugs.

Meditation and common forms
The term meditation refers to a set of techniques wherein a person minimizes the activity of the mind without altering the level of alertness. Broadly, the technique has been categorized under five basic categories:

Mantra meditation
This comprises the Transcendental Meditation techniques, Clinically Standardized Meditation and Relaxation Response. In this process, by repeatedly using a sound or phrase, a person focuses to achieve a state of perfect consciousness.

Mindfulness meditation
This form of meditation involves focusing on what you experience while performing the technique like the very flow of your breath.

Here, a person attempts to achieve a state of calmness by combining bodily postures with controlled breathing.

Tai-Chi – A form of Chinese martial arts, the technique is performed using self-paced series of movements in a slow-graceful manner along with deep breathing.

Qi gong – This involves a combination of meditation, breathing exercise, relaxation and physical movements.

Meditation and pain management: In the past, meditation has been explored extensively for its effects on stress reduction and other similar clinical functions. However, researchers have now identified another significant health benefit of the technique that suggests that it is actually possible to overcome debilitating pain with the help of meditation. What’s more, some of these studies have also suggested that the pain-relieving effects of meditation might be even more effective than morphine.

Back in April, 2011, a study by the researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center indicated that a person can attain at least 40 per ent decrease in pain intensity and 57 per cent in pain unpleasantness merely by practicing these techniques regularly. This decrease in pain was found to be much higher than with morphine or other pain-relieving drugs. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging, the brain activity of study participants after meditation demonstrated how the technique increased the activity of certain areas which are responsible for pain perception.

Despite such findings, scientists were unable to ascertain the actual mechanism of this phenomenon until now. According to a recent research published at the Brain Research Bulletin, investigators from Harvard, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital have identified a possible answer. They suggested that the explanation probably lies in alpha waves manipulation in the brain.

Furthermore, they explained that by practicing the techniques of mindfulness meditation for a period of eight-weeks or above, you will be able to control the activity of these brain waves.

Source; Times of India

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