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Managing Pain with Mindfulness

By Anne Hartley

Feb 03 2022





Mindfulness has been proven to aid pain management, whether you have an injury or live with chronic pain.

Your mood affects the level of pain you experience. Say for instance you stub your toe when you are in a good mood, the intensity of the pain would be less than it would be if you were in a bad mood.

This is not about just being positive, because being positive is not enough to change your response to pain. Scientists have discovered that real change occurs when we stop being afraid of pain as this affects the signals being sent to different parts of our brain, and pain is about what is happening in our brain, even though we feel it in our bodies.

In clinical trials carried out to discover if mindfulness meditation could reduce pain, researchers found that chronic pain could be reduced from 57% to 90%, depending upon the individual.

Further studies showed that mindfulness soothes the brain pattern and alters the structure of the brain over time. Some chronic pain sufferers have said that they barely notice the pain at all, after regular practice. Being a sufferer of chronic pain myself I can vouch for that.

Managing pain with Mindfulness

Before I had knee replacement surgery every time I would get out of a chair I felt as if my knee was being ripped apart, and I would always say how much it hurt. One night my daughter reminded me that my words reinforced that movement with pain, so I stopped, and it made a difference. I won’t say all the pain went but not focusing on it reduced the intensity of the pain.

There are several ways to manage pain. One is to change the self-talk associated with pain. Thoughts such as, I’m in so much pain, this is agony, no-one knows what I’m going through, keep us trapped in a pain cycle.

By changing your running commentary to statements such as, I am in control, This is only temporary can actually reduce the intensity of the pain, just as I did by not talking about my knee pain.

To manage pain it helps to be curious and to accept. So rather than focusing on what you can do to take the pain away, focus on what you can learn from the pain. How can you grow as a person from the pain? How can you control your mind?

What also works well for pain management is distraction. Some people say they file the pain away in a corner of their mind and barely feel it until they place their conscious attention upon it, when it comes back in full force.

The more you can distract yourself by doing things you love, the less pain you will experience. When I spend time with my friends, I feel zero pain. When I mosaic, a hobby I am passionate about, I feel no pain.

Being able to manage pain makes us resilient. In a study carried out by researchers Badri Bajaj and Needrja Pande[3] found that psychological resilience is more pronounced in mindful peopl, and that these same people had higher life satisfaction.

What it all comes down to is being able to regulate how we think, and this is a practice that takes time and committed attention. Being mindful enables us to choose what thoughts we allow ourselves to focus on, on a regular basis.

Anne Hartley is the owner of Hart Life Academy which trains mindfulness and meditation teachers.


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