Pain management is big business in health care. Health care estimates suggest that Americans spend over $100 Billion on back pain treatment. Lower back pain is a major cause of sick leave in the business world. We look to medication, surgery, physical adjustments, yoga, herbs and healers to find relief. One cost effective method is meditation.
Western medicine has become more understanding of the mind/body connection. Scientific research has shown that the mind has power to positively impact the body. A strong, positive mind state may be one of the most important factors in health.
Meditation practices use the power of the mind to create wellness and well-being. Research studies have found many positive results from those who meditate on a regular basis. The National Institute of Industrial Health in Japan taught 447 industrial workers Transcendental Meditation and compared them to a control group of 321 non-meditators.
They found Significant decreases in the meditation group in the following areas:
• Physical complaints
• Emotional instability
• Neurotic tendencies and anxiety
In addition, the TM group experienced:
• Better relationships with co-workers
• Better relationships with supervisors
• Improved job satisfaction
• Greater improvements in general health and employee effectiveness
• Greater decrease in sleep fatigue, job worry and tension
With all these positive outcomes, it is easy to see why meditation lowers stress. Along with the external improvements in life, meditation lowers the stress response: blood pressure decreases, heart rate decreases and breathing rate decreases. The proper meditation techniques also include diaphragmatic breathing, which increases oxygen to the cells. It is well know that stress is the greatest cause of health problems and pain is more exacerbated when an individual is feeling stressed out.
Meditation provides a free powerful tool for pain management. There are several reasons why this is so. One, meditation practice releases endorphins, which create a sense of well-being. Two, meditation techniques, which focus upon the breath, work to redirect the life force energy away from the senses to the higher centers in the brain. Three, meditation teaches concentration methods to direct the prana (life force energy) to change physiological states. Let’s take a deeper at these three factors.
One, meditation practice releases endorphins, which create a sense of well-being. A quick google search comes up with the following:
Wikipedia provides the following definition: Endorphins are…produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in vertebrates during strenuous exercise ,, excitement, and orgasm; and they resemble the opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a sense of well-being. Endorphins work as "natural fever relievers", whose effects may be enhanced by other medications.
Patricia Norris, Ph.D., Director of the Biofeedback and Psychophysiology Clinic at the Menninger Foundation, reports: "In our practice at Menninger we use meditative techniques to enhance immune functioning…. Almost all of our patients use meditative techniques in learning self-regulation for disorders such as anxiety and hypertension, and for stress management. We consider meditation a recommended practice for anyone seeking high-level wellness."
World famous Dr. Deepak Chopra also comments on the endorphin factor. Thus the brain [and nervous system in general] produces narcotics up to 200 times stronger than anything you can buy…with the added boon that our own pain-killers are non-addictive. Morphine and endorphins both block pain by filling a certain receptor on the neuron and preventing other chemicals that carry the message of pain from coming in, without which there can be no sensation of pain, no matter how much physical provocation is present. [Chopra, Quantum Healing, 1990, p.62].
Deep meditation practice results in a flood of endorphines that create a sense of well being and lowered stress levels. When combined with visual imagery, meditation can be used in this heightened endorphine state, to direct the flow of energy to specific locations for pain reduction. More will be said about this.
Two, meditation techniques, which focus upon the breath, work to redirect the life force energy away from the senses to the higher centers in the brain.
The basis of Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda is found in Sankhya Yoga. In our normal state of consciousness our life force energy is directed out through the senses to serve everyday functions of seeing, hearing, feeling tasting, etc. The life force enters the body through the medulla oblongata, which is located in the primitive part of the brain stem. This part of the brain is hard wired for the flight-fight response and the life force is identified with the physical senses. The yogic belief suggests that this is a grosser, denser manifestation of our consciousness. Kriya Yoga, an advanced pranayam (life force control) technique, redirects the subtle energy up the spine and into the higher centers of the brain. As the life force energy is withdrawn and redirected, subtler, discriminative aspects of consciousness are awakened. The benefit for self-healing is that the life force can now be directed more consciously to physical locations that need attention for healing or pain control.
Three, meditation teaches concentration methods to direct the prana (life force energy) to change physiological states.
The basic technique in meditation of watching the breath as it enters and exits the body enhances one’s ability to concentrate. The untrained mind tends to wander off into random thoughts and fantasy. The meditation student learns to observe the breath and becomes aware when the focus of attention on the breath has been lost. This simple act of observation and continued redirection of attention strengthens concentration. As the meditation student continues to practice, the focus becomes like a laser as consciousness is awakened which can now observe the emerging thoughts from the mind without becoming lost, immersed and distracted. The focus of attention can now be directed by the will, rather than being thrown around by the random thoughts from the mind.
This enhanced concentrated state allows the individual to direct a flow of energy. Energy follows thought and in the deeper state awareness, mind and energy become one. Hence, the direction of attention and a focus of consciousness can send a flow of energy to a particular location. The physical body responds to a change in subtle energy. The acupuncture science is based upon this fact: change the flow of energy, removed the blocks and the body’s natural healing ability is facilitated. Physical pain can be effected by consciously directing a flow of energy to the localized area and, using one’s imagination, create a physiological change. Pain can be reduced or eliminated. These methods are useful for chronic pain, post operative recovery and acute pain. The actual meditative and visualization techniques are actually rather simple and become more effective when used consistently.
Dr. Mann has created several state of the art CD programs or MP3 downloads for meditation, self-healing and stress reduction. These programs can be found on his website at www.ronmann.com. His best selling book "Sacred Healing: Integrating Spirituality with Psychotherapy" also provides more information on the mind body connection and the power of subtle energy. More information about Dr. Mann can be found at www.ronmann.com