While massage can do wonders for many types of pain, self-care is just as important, and meditation has been proven time and again to be one of the most effective forms of self-care to treat pain. In fact, just like massage therapy, studies have shown meditation to work better than painkillers specifically for low back pain.
Pain is a very complex subject, with much research and debate currently going on in the medical field; but what we do know is that a large amount of what we perceive as pain may be due to wiring within the brain more so than a physical cause. Nerve signals can sometimes be misinterpreted by the brain, giving different or exaggerated sensations that are physically relatable making it seem far worse than the injury or condition really is from a purely physical standpoint.
While some people prefer a visualization based meditation, many find it even more helpful not to ignore the pain, but rather to focus so intently on specific sensations of the body that the brain can begin to recognize pain sensations differently. You don’t need to spend an hour deep breathing and visualizing to feel the positive effects of meditation. Do what works for you, even just 5-10 minutes.
Here are some basic steps to get you started in a Daily Meditation practice:
1. Find a quiet place you can sit or lie down comfortably. Don’t force yourself to sit in a lotus position or in any other way that’s painful. The entire point is to relax and feel the minor sensations you often aren’t conscious of, not to focus on how uncomfortable your leg/butt/back feel because you’re sitting in a way that you think you’re “supposed” to.
2. Close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths. Don’t make it forceful, but be sure you’re breathing all the way down, until you feel your stomach pushes out. This is what’s called diaphragmatic breathing, meaning you’re engaging the diaphragm, which calms the nervous system. Focus on these breaths and the full sensation as you take in the breath and release it.
3. Starting with the top of your head and slowly moving down, focus on each and every sensation you’re feeling. Recognize how your hair may pull at the scalp, if your forehead is tense, feel the air flow in through your nose, sense any tension in your jaw. Work your way down all the way through the body, pausing to focus on each area; especially those that feel tense or painful and devote your entire attention to calming that sensation and relaxing as much as possible.
If you find that this body scan and focused attention isn’t lessening your pain or is even making it worse, try instead focusing on a mantra or visualization. You may focus on naming each thing you’re grateful for with every inhale and exhale. You may repeat a mantra, such as “I change my thoughts, I change my world” (Norman Vincent Peale), or “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better” (Laura Silva). Some people choose to focus on a visualization; so imagine yourself sitting on a beach, on the front porch of a cabin in the woods, or anywhere else you would find immense peace. Visualize everything, down to the smallest detail and stay there for a while enjoying it.
4. Focus on the whole body sensation. Do your legs feel heavy? Are you feeling relaxed? Do you find it easier to perform that deep diaphragmatic breathing than when you started? Recognize even the smallest improvements and changes within your body.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. If an outside thought comes in while meditating; acknowledge it, then refocus on your meditation as quick as possible. Regardless of whether you spend an hour every day or even just 2 or 3 minutes on your lunch break and another 2 or 3 minutes as you lay down in the evening, the key is to fully immerse yourself in it every time. Consistent practice is what makes the biggest difference in your pain.
Body & Soul Massage in Salem Ma offers Wellness Workshops the Second and Fourth Tuesday of the Month. Check out our website https://bodysoulsalem.com/events/ or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BodySoulSalem/ for event listings.