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MEDITATION AND PAIN MANAGEMENT

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In recent years, medical researchers have gained new insights into how the human brain modulates pain, and developed new methods to “trick” the mind into reducing pain symptoms. Among the most promising therapies for pain management is mindful meditation. One study found that mindful meditation can reduce pain by 57 percent, and, even 90 percent among expert meditators.

The growing research on mindful meditation and pain management is fascinating because it shows that the majority of pain symptoms are influenced by cognitive processes. If properly trained, your mind can limit the potency of pain conditions including:

Migraines
Back problems
Cancer
Fibromyalgia
Multiple sclerosis
A Short History of Mindful Meditation
Mindfulness in its present form is a type of meditation that emphasizes a state of attentiveness to experiences occurring in the immediate time frame.

Originally, mindful meditation was developed in the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years. This kind of Buddhist meditation attempted to achieve enlightenment by shrugging off the hindrances of worldly cravings. In practice, mindful meditation in the Buddhist framework was used to de-emphasize sensory stimuli.

In modern culture, mindful meditation is a non-religious practice that focuses the mind on the moment rather than the future or past. The system is effective at limiting stress and unpleasant experiences including pain.

Medical Applications of Mindful Meditation
Mindful meditation has become increasingly popular in the medical community as its benefits become more recognized.

ACT therapy—Acceptance and commitment therapy uses mindful meditation in a clinical psychology modality to broaden psychological potential. This therapy is used to treat phobias, anxiety and depression.

How Mindful Meditation Works

For many of those unfamiliar with how pain acts upon the mind and body, it is easy to dismiss mindful meditation.

First, you should know that there are two kinds of pain. Primary pain is the result of illness or injury that stimulates nerves to send a signal to the brain. Secondary pain is usually a mental reaction to the initial pain impulse. Secondary pain is often more powerful and of longer duration, and is intended to alert you to bodily damage.

Secondary pain is also your mind’s way of solving the problem of what caused the pain. Your mind will search through your memories to find a similar experience that may offer some clues on how to prevent it.

. If you have reoccurring pain, then you could experience heightened anxiety and depression about future pain you may be helpless to stop. Unfortunately, these pain and anxiety conditions can cycle and feed on one another, producing even more pain.

This unrelenting feedback loop of pain and stress may even produce biological changes in your brain. Studies reveal that brains lose grey matter over time in chronic pain patients. Neuro-imaging of chronic pain sufferers has found that processing of pain shifts from sensory areas to emotional areas, suggesting that it isn’t the initial pain impulse but the secondary cognitive processing that dominates in long-term pain conditions.

Mindfulness instills the ability to reduce stress and anxiety, key effectors of pain intensity. With less stress, the cycle of increasing pain is short-circuited.

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