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HOW DOES MEDITATION WORK IN PAIN MANAGEMENT AND STRESS?

Sadia Asad 22 Sep 2021
HOW DOES MEDITATION WORK IN PAIN MANAGEMENT AND STRESS?

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Thousands of years ago, Budha said: "Life contains suffering." The suffering may be profound, like a severe illness or a situation that you feel like you can't handle.

Exclusion of all thoughts to focus your attention on one thing is how meditation works. People may be able to overcome pain and mental stress through meditation because they are focusing on one thing or one word; it gets nearly impossible to think about what is causing stress

The Origin Of Meditation

India: Originating from Ancient India, meditation has remained a significant part of ancient health care systems. Some of the oldest written records from 1500 BCE, training of mind was called Dhyana and Jhana, the terms used for meditation. According to Vedic times, the primary purpose of meditation is to attain connectivity with the inner self. 

China: As early as the 3rd and 6th centuries BC, early forms of meditation were linked to the ancient Chinese philosopher, Daoist, and Laozi and his writings. Now in later centuries, the meditation techniques developed from the writings of the past which include:

  • Shou Zong: Guarding the middle (rough translation)
  • Shou Jing: Guarding tranquility (rough translation)
  • Bao Pu: Embracing simplicity (rough translation)
  • Bao Yi: Embracing the one (rough translation)

In modern medicine, meditation has been studied and analyzed based on underlying mechanisms and the benefits that it incurs on both mental and physical health. It is common knowledge that meditation, such as yoga, mantra, and different breathing exercises, effectively lowers stress levels and increases calmness and relaxation of the mind. However, it is often not understood how this works. 

Seemingly, meditation means sitting still and concentrating on a sound, thought, or specific relaxing exercises like stretching and other poses. But how does sitting still or making poses affect the neurological and physiological patterns of a human being?

According to a study conducted by Sara W. Lazar and her team in 2011, meditation has proved to change the morphology of the brain. It was observed that there was an increase in the cortical thickness in the hippocampus - the part of the brain responsible for memory, responsiveness, and regulation of emotions. Also, a decrease in the volume of the Amygdala - part of the brain responsible for stimulation of fear/anxiety. Not only that, but a follow-up study of the above mentioned also showed the psychological benefits of meditation.

A direct effect of these morphological changes can result in increased confidence, rationality, and well-managed emotions and reflexes. Not just that, it has also proved to be beneficial through several studies in regards to addiction, concentration, and anxiety disorders. 

Some benefits of meditation include hormonal changes that help with better sleep and lowered blood pressure problems and behavioral changes such as increased kindness and empathy. Even controlling the perception of physical pain is the advantage we get from meditation.

Meditation And Its Effect On Stress And Motivation

When the human body is under stress, it releases an inflammatory chemical due to the rise of a stress hormone called Cortisol. According to a study, a meditation style called "Mindfulness Meditation" can help lower the inflammatory effect of Cortisol, automatically controlling issues such as poor sleep, increased anxiety, fatigue, and even blood pressure problems. 

Other than that, certain forms of meditations, such as the Metta, involve self-love practices. It increases self-love and confidence and has a direct effect on the behavioral patterns of human beings. Once one learns to love themselves and be more confident and motivated in their lives, it makes it easier for people to be more kind and empathetic towards other people. 

Does Meditation Alleviate Pain?

Smaller-scale studies have shown the relation of mindfulness meditation with the decreased physical perception of pain, including chronic pains. Meditation uses various techniques and tools to get started. Some of the examples are:

  • Meditation apps
  • Books
  • Online videos
  • Podcasts
  • Classes 
  • Personal instructors

Unlike the rest of the meditation forms, you focus towards the pain to find relief instead of thinking away from it for relief. So basically, you are alleviating pain by working with it instead of ignoring or blocking it. 

How Can You Make Meditation Work?

The concept of meditation may be complex for some people to grasp. It may be difficult to believe that meditation can work in unexpected ways and has benefits over unforeseen elements. It is also possible that meditation does not work for people for a long time in the beginning. 

1. Time And Practice

Meditation needs practice and time for one to get into its rhythm and understand its science completely. 

2. Belief

Meditation, to work, needs belief. It requires an open mind and an idea that it will help with reducing stress and pain. Otherwise, if the concentration remains distributed, the purpose gets diminished. Furthermore, it is essential to understand that, like modern medicine, meditation does not promise instant results.

The time that the meditation takes to start working for you can be affected by many different factors. For instance, how easy or hard it is for you to concentrate on your meditation without being distracted by your thoughts or the world outside your inner self, can determine how long it takes for the meditation to work. 

3. Find Out What Works Best For You

Another critical thing to note about meditation is that there are no textbook rules to it. Your perception of calming and relaxing to you must be determined and adapted to by yourself based on your own practices. If a textbook meditation doesn't work, you need to learn how to improvise according to your time needs. 

4. External Environment

Some more aspects that affect meditation can be the external surroundings in which one decides to meditate and how comfortably one is sitting, standing, or exercising.

5. Consistency

The last thing that needs addressing regarding meditation is consistency.

Since practice can help improve the effects of meditation, it would be far more effective if the practice is paired up with consistency. When one is consistent, it helps develop a routine, but it also psychologically conditions your brain to relax in that period, enabling it to calm your mind and body. Meditation doesn't need to be hours long on end. It can be a mere 5-minute routine that helps connect with the inner self and disconnect from the outside world, only to reconnect even stronger and better.

Conclusion

All in all, meditation has proven itself to be a very effective way of dealing with both psychological stresses and physical pains. There are numerous different techniques of meditation that can be experimented upon and performed to find the most effective and suitable meditation, either to relieve stress or pain or just as a portal to one's inner self. 

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About the Author:
Sadia Asad is a certified Post Professional Doctor of Physiotherapy with hands on clinical experience. She has indulged herself into the field of medical freelancing focusing on content writing and research. It helps her gain more knowledge on new research in the medical field. She completed her graduation and post grad field studies from Pakistan

References

  • https://www.news-medical.net/health/Meditation-History.aspx
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889159112004758
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5368208/
  • https://mindworks.org/blog/how-long-does-meditation-take-to-work/
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/meditation-for-chronic-pain#getting-started
  • https://positivepsychology.com/history-of-meditation/

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