How to Reduce Physical Pain with Meditation

Four Methods:Using Body Scan Meditation To Help Relieve PainUsing Mindful Movement Meditation To Relieve PainFocusing Your Breathing To Help Reduce PainUnderstanding How Meditation Can Help Pain

Meditation is an increasingly common technique used in pain management. Doctors often include meditation practices into pain management programs for patients who suffer from chronic pain. People who suffer from pain often use it to learn how to emotionally and mentally deal with it.[1][2][3][4] Meditation is noninvasive, inexpensive, and requires no medications to be effective. If you are in pain, you can learn how to use meditation to help reduce your pain.

Method 1
Using Body Scan Meditation To Help Relieve Pain

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    Find a quiet place. To receive the full effects of body scan meditation, find a quiet, calm room to meditate in. The point is to focus inward on your mind and body, so you want to eliminate outside distractions. Set aside at least half an hour for this.[5]
    • You can do this in your bedroom, living room, or any other quiet room that is free from distractions.
    • If you have to, ask your family or friends to not disturb you for the duration of your meditation.
    • Turn off your cell phone. Leave it in another room so you will not be tempted by it.
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    Lie down. To do the body scan meditation, you need to lie down somewhere comfortable. This can be your bed, a mat on the floor, or anywhere else you find comfortable. Close your eyes. Either rest your hands on your torso or on the floor.[6]
    • Relax into the position. As you first lie there, think about where your body connects with the mat or bed. Try to soften the areas that are touching the floor. Relax any parts of your body that are holding tension, such as the neck, shoulders, or even legs.
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    Be present in the moment. The first step in body scan meditation is to be present in the moment. This means removing all thought of the past or the future along with other thoughts. Concentrate only on the moment you are in.[7]
    • Focus only on your body. Ignore everything else.
    • Make sure that as you focus on your body that you let go of any negativity. Accept your body as it is in that moment. Don’t worry or stress about what’s wrong, what should be different, or what you can do in the future or what you should have done in the past. View your body positively, as a friend, not as an enemy.
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    Focus on your breath. As you begin the body scan meditation, focus on your breath. Take a few moments just to breath. Feel the rhythm of your breath.[8]
    • In your mind, think about what your breath is like. Are they deep or smooth? Are they wheezing or loud? Where do you feel the breath in other parts of your body?
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    Scan over your body with your mind. With your mind, you should move over your body. Do this slowly, focusing on one body part at a time. Experience each body part; don’t visualize or move them. Feel the body part.[9]
    • Start with your left foot. Focus on the toes, the move through each part of the foot, including the heel and the sole. Move to the ankle, the calf, and the shin as you continue up the left leg. Go all the way up to the left hip and groin before you begin the same process on the right foot, starting with the toes. Continue up through the body, focusing on the pelvic region, including the hips and genitals, then up through the torso, back, the chest, and shoulders. Do each arm after the shoulders, starting with your fingers. Continue to the neck, throat, face, and head.[10]
    • As you think of each body part, don’t visualize it. Instead, feel and experience it. Think about whether it is cold or hot. Feel the texture and weight of the clothing on it, or the floor underneath it. Feel each sensation on the body part. If you feel pain, acknowledge the pain. If that part of your body is pain free, acknowledge that.
    • When you move on to the next body part, let go of the previous body part. Don’t dwell on a body part. Stay in the present, thinking about the body part you are currently on.
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    Bring your mind back if it wanders. Your mind will naturally wander as you lie on the floor. It will continuously wander. If your mind wanders, gently bring your mind back to the body scan meditation.[11]
    • If your mind wanders while you are focusing on your legs, calmly make your mind come back from where it wandered and focus again on the legs.
    • Remember, if this happens, stay positive and don’t criticize yourself. Instead, stay focused on the present moment in a positive way.
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    Connect your body together. After you complete the whole body scan, think about connecting your body together. Feel the foot connected to the leg, the leg connected to the hips, the hips to the torso, the torso to the arms, and so forth. End by feeling the skin that holds the body together.[12]
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    Open your eyes. When you are finished, open your eyes. You should have a greater awareness about yourself, and feel more relaxed. You should also feel less pain, since much of your pain is connected to tension in your body.[13]
    • Body scan meditation can help you have a greater awareness of your pain after you are finished. For example, if you have chronic pain, after body scan meditation you may realize that your entire body and life is not full of pain. You have localized your pain and discovered many places in your body that are pain free.[14]

Method 2
Using Mindful Movement Meditation To Relieve Pain

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    Stand and focus on the sensations. Begin your mindful movement meditation by standing straight, legs shoulder-width apart. Close your eyes. Then, start to focus on the sensations of your body. Pay attention to your breath and to the way your body feels as it stands there.[15]
    • Identify places in your body that feel tense, painful, or uncomfortable.
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    Move your arms. Focusing on your breathing, move your arms up and down. As you breathe in, lift your arms, and as you exhale, lower your arms. Repeat this 10 times.[16]
    • After moving your arms up and down 10 times, add an additional move. After you raise your arm, stretch them out wide with the exhale. With your next inhale, bring them back together. Exhale and lower them. Repeat this 10 times.
    • Focus on the physicality of each movement as you do it. Think about how it feels.
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    Rotate your wrists. Next, relax your body and breathe slowly. Lift your arm so that you can hold your elbow with the hand of your other arm. Slowly and smoothly, rotate your wrist in a circle as you breathe evenly. Do this for 30 seconds.Then, rotate your wrist the opposite way for 30 seconds.[17]
    • Lower both arms to your side. Focus your awareness on your arms. How do they feel? Does the arm you just moved around feel different? Does it feel more alive?
    • Repeat the same rotations with the other wrist. Then relax your arms. Shake your arms and focus on the sensations in both your arms.
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    Rotate your shoulders and head. Stand relaxed while breathing even. Rotate your shoulders forwards 10 times. Focus on the feeling as you do this, including any pain, tension, or relief. Continue to control your breathing. Then, rotate your shoulders backwards 10 times, focusing on any feelings you feel.[18]
    • Next, slowly rotate your head from side to side. Tilt your ear towards your shoulder, then slowly and gently roll your head down and around in front of you. When you get to the other ear, change directions and roll it forward again, back towards the other ear. Do this 10 times.
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    Hug yourself. Stand relaxed, breathing evenly. Inhale and stretch both arms out wide, palms out. Exhale and slowly wrap your arms around your body like you are giving yourself a hug. Inhale and extend your arms out wide again. Repeat this for a minute.[19]
    • You should feel the back stretching as you hug yourself, and feel the chest opening as you move your arms back wide.

Method 3
Focusing Your Breathing To Help Reduce Pain

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    Get comfortable. To go through these breathing exercises, you need to get in a comfortable position. This can be sitting down and lying down. Make sure you sit or lie down somewhere comfortable, like a bed, comfortable chair, or a mat on the floor.[20]
    • Place your hands either loosely by your side with the palms facing up or resting lightly on your torso. The key is to be comfortable.
    • Make sure your body is not tense. Soften any places that might be tense, like your shoulders or jaw.
    • Settle into the position, feeling all the places where your body connects with the surface beneath you.
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    Identify the pain. Make a note of the pain you feel. Where is the pain? What does this pain feel like? How are you reacting to this pain? Bring awareness to the pain so you can deal with it through the next steps of your meditation.[21]
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    Be present. Focus only on this moment. Let go of the past and the future. Focus only on the moment where you are. Be aware of the physical sensations of your body, from the temperature, to where it touches the surface beneath you, to the clothes you’re wearing, to any pain or discomfort.[22]
    • Focus on your thoughts and feelings in this moment. Try to keep it about this particular moment, not the past or present.
    • Refrain from passing judgment on your feelings, thoughts, or physical sensations. One of the keys of meditation is to become aware without passing judgment. Get rid of all criticism and negativity in your mind. Replace it with positivity. Be kind to yourself.
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    Focus on your breathing. Next, breathe. Don’t try to breathe differently, but just let yourself breathe naturally. Notice the way you breathe. Listen to the sounds, and notice how it feels physically.[23]
    • Think about how your chest and abdomen responds to your breath. Think about how the breaths feel as you inhale and exhale. Notice any details about them.
    • Remember to stay non-judgmental. You are only observing and not making any judgments about your breathing. You are just breathing and being in the moment.
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    Notice your pain. After you have focused solely on your breathing for a few minutes, start broadening your awareness to other parts of your body. Focus on your pain. Wrap your mental awareness around that pain. As you breathe in and out, allow the breaths to soften your pain, massage those areas, and take away the rough edges.[24]
    • As your wrap your breath around the pain, put kindness, love, and gentleness into those breaths. Treat your pain as you treat someone you love who is in pain.
    • Pain is a stream of sensations. Concentrating on the pain and using your breath to help channel those sensations can help the pain lessen.
    • If this gets too intense for you, expand your awareness back to your whole body and focus on relaxing and settling down into the surface beneath you.
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    Stay here for a few moments. Remain with your mind and breath focused on your pain as you soothe and soften the pain. You may continuously broaden your awareness and bring it back to the pain as the pain sensations change.[25]
    • Expand your sensations broader than yourself and your pain. Try to find pleasant sensations and experiences around you. This can be the way your legs rest on the floor, the feeling of your breath, the softness of your shirt, or the sun on your face.
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    End the meditation. After you have focused on your breath and pain for as long as you want, end the meditation. To do this, expand your mind from the pain and your breath to your body, then the world around you. Slowly, become aware of your surroundings. Open your eyes slowly. Move your body slowly as you come back to full awareness.[26]

Method 4
Understanding How Meditation Can Help Pain

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    Reduce stress. Pain can cause stress, anxiety, and helpless feelings. You may feel upset about your pain all the time, which causes tension and stress, which feeds your pain. Pain and stress are a vicious cycle. Meditation is a proven stress-reliever, and reducing stress can help your pain. It can also help to calm both your body and mind.[27]
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    Use meditation any time you need it. Meditation can be used any time you feel pain. Since meditation helps you refocus your mental energies away from your pain, you can meditate even when you are out in public or surrounded by people. For the best results, meditate every day. This helps keep the effects from lessening.[28]
    • Deep breathing and even certain mindful meditation movements can be done whenever you feel pain. At first, it may be harder to concentrate in public places or busy situations, but the more you practice these techniques, the easier they will become.
    • You can meditate as often as you like with any of the three methods. If you find that meditation helps reduce your pain, you can meditate four to six times a day.
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    Adjust your thoughts about pain. One of the things meditation offers is a way to rethink your concept of pain. For people who suffer pain, it dominates a lot of their life, and the pain takes on a life of its own. Meditation can help you understand that pain is a sensation, not a larger entity. Meditation helps you learn how to deal with the pain by controlling your emotional response to it.[29]
    • Focusing on your body helps you localize the pain. Many times, pain feels like it is everywhere in the body. Meditation can help you adjust those thoughts. Instead of the pain being in your whole body, you begin to understand it is only in certain parts of your body, leaving most of your body pain free.
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    Acknowledge the pain. Meditation helps you acknowledge pain. If you try to ignore the pain, it might consume your thoughts or feel worse. With meditation, you can learn to be aware of your pain without judging yourself or focusing on it. You acknowledge the pain alongside everything else at that you experience in the same moment. This includes good things.[30]
    • By acknowledging your pain and everything else you experience at the same time, pain becomes only one of many things going on for you. If you can focus your awareness to the pain, but also the sun on your face, the smell of food cooking, the sound of birds chirping, the feeling of someone near you, you realize pain is a small part of your experience at every given moment.
    • Doing this helps you lessen the power pain has over you, giving you control over your life and the moment.

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Categories: Meditation for Beginners | Pain Management and Recovery