Mindfulness training helps give us a different way of relating to pain. Instead of relating to it as something that we resent and want to go away we learn to observe patiently and non judgmentally what is there. We can break the sensation of pain down into its constituent parts – noticing how it changes, where it is located, observing it as raw sensation rather than adding on thoughts such as “why me”, “I can’t bear this” etc. What we tell ourselves about what we are experiencing can have as large an impact as the physical experience itself. With mindfulness training we learn to notice what we are telling ourselves about the experience and how to step back from ways of thinking that add to the difficulty of an ongoing physical experience. Noticing sensations as raw data can help to reduce the impact of pain.
In a study conducted by Jon Kabat Zinn 90 chronic pain patients were trained in mindfulness meditation in a 10-week Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program. Statistically significant reductions were observed in measures of:
- present-moment pain,
- negative body image,
- inhibition of activity by pain,
- symptoms, mood disturbance, and psychological symptomatology, including anxiety and depression.
- Pain-related drug utilization decreased and activity levels and feelings of self-esteem increased.
Improvement appeared to be independent of gender, source of referral, and type of pain. A comparison group of pain patients did not show significant improvement on these measures after traditional treatment protocols.
At follow-up, the improvements observed during the meditation training were maintained up to 15 months post-meditation training for all measures except present-moment pain. The majority of subjects reported continued high compliance with the meditation practice as part of their daily lives.
Ref: Journal of Behavioral Medicine, Volume 8, Issue 2