Pain: How Much is Mind Over Matter?

Q I take daily pain medication, but I worry about its side effects. Is it true I can meditate my pain away?

A It is true that you can address some of your pain issues mentally. The mind-body connection is real. Pain affects the mind and the body.

The scientific community accepts the definition of pain as, “an unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to agony” (International Association for the Study of Pain). Pain is also a subjective emotional reaction to the physical response of neurons to a stimulus. Example: You prick your finger, and keep sewing. You twist your ankle and cry in
agony. You have arthritis pain in your joints but you have errands to run.

Some of us feel pain and push ahead with our day, while others feel pain and become
debilitated. That is your mind’s ability and willingness to move past the pain.

Diagnosis & Treatment: Any pain that is severe or persistent, or resulting from an injury needs to be addressed by a doctor. Psychic pain, intense sadness, also must be addressed by a mental health professional right away.

Finding Balance: If a doctor wants to prescribe a medication for pain, physical or emotional (analgesic or anti-depressant), talk to the doctor about the side effects, about how long you can go between doses, and breakthrough pain.

Alternative Treatments: Meditation has been shown to be effective for both emotional and physical pain. Exercise, too. Try also music therapy or art. Pain is unpleasant, so try to engage your mind in something that gives you pleasure.

Call one of our social workers today for a free guided meditation –all you need is an open mind and 15 minutes!

Source: “Arthritis and Pain. Psychosocial Aspects in The Management Of Arthritis Pain” by Catherine L Backman, Arthritis Research & Therapy 2006, 8:221 12/5/06. 

Accessible here:

“The impact of pain on psychological well-being in 
rheumatoid arthritis: the mediating effects of self esteem and adjustment to disease” by Nagyova II, Stewart RE, Macejova Z, van Dijk JP, van den Heuvel WJ. Patient Educ Couns. 2005 Jul;58(1):55-62.