Treating Chronic Back Pain with Meditation

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When you suffer from chronic back pain, pain relievers are not always enough. Why not try meditation that is a proven non-drug method, because several scientific works have verified its benefits against stress or pain, and in particular, back pain. Meditation is an active attitude that implies the awakening of the senses. We learn to extract ourselves from our emotions and sensations to achieve, over time, inner peace.

It’s impossible to miss the craze for meditation, whether on the Internet, in magazines, or on television. In March 2016, a study published in The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that meditation was more effective than pain medication from the first month of treatment.

Mindfulness Meditation – A Practice Accessible to All

The technique studied by researchers is that of “mindfulness meditation,” a traditional method known for its spiritual aspects. It does not require any prior knowledge: anyone can get started. “Mindfulness meditation simply consists of observing and accepting everything that is happening in the body, without trying to intervene in it,” summarizes Dr. Lionel Coudron, doctor and yoga teacher.

Important Mechanisms at Work in Chronic Low Back Pain

Doctors have identified at least two mechanisms at work in chronic back pain, and meditation seems particularly suited to address them. The pain causes the body’s defense reactions. Muscles, in particular, tighten to form contractures. “The person who suffers reduces their movements as much as possible, and the joints stiffen,” adds Dr. Coudron. The less you move, the worse the problem becomes.

We also know that the brain plays a significant role in the chronicization of pain. Thanks to advances in brain imaging, researchers observed how the painful sensation eventually evolves on its own, fueled by stress and anxiety. It is not uncommon for the original lesion to disappear completely, but for low back pain to persist because of these self-aggravating phenomena.

Meditation Relaxes Muscles and Reduces Pain

The study published in the JAMA compares a group of people treated with painkillers with another panel who followed meditation sessions. The results are clear: the patients in the second group observed a 51% improvement in their pain and mobility, while the first was only relieved by 27%. Dr. Coudron explains that meditating first relaxes the muscles. “The whole body relaxes,” he says. It also allows us to change our relationship to pain. By accepting it, we free ourselves from negative emotions that aggravate and maintain evil.

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“Meditation reduces pain while also acting on emotional distress,” confirms Dr François Bourgognon, a psychiatrist. He adds: “We learn to widen our field of attention to all the other feelings, to give less space to the painful sensation. “

How to Meditate?

The ideal way is to sit with your back straight in a chair, but you don’t have to. “We must seek the most comfortable position, even lying down, so as not to aggravate the pain,” recommends Dr. Bourgognon. We close our eyes, or we fix a point on the ground in front of us. Finally, we focus all our attention on our breathing. “It’s about observation, without trying to control,” recalls Dr. Coudron. The rhythm of the breath will subside on its own. “

Next step: observe all the sensations that arise and the thoughts that cross our mind. “The idea is to welcome them with kindness, then to let them pass without commenting,” he specifies. The pain is rated the same as the rest, taking as much distance as possible, as if it were someone else.

Then … patience! You have to practice every day, for six to eight weeks, to be relieved. The brain is a plastic organ: the more we meditate, the more we get there. Dr. Coudron advises going gradually, starting with 10-minute sessions, then, when you feel more comfortable, gradually increasing to 20 minutes.

Note: If we have drug treatment, we continue it in parallel with meditation. It’s essential to break the vicious cycle of pain and stress that feeds on each other. As soon as you start to feel better, you resume your usual activities, possibly adding a very gentle sport, such as swimming pool exercises.

Don’t Hesitate to Get Help

When you begin meditation, it is not uncommon to ask yourself questions or encounter specific problems. Most of the time, they are about letting go. With the stress of wanting to calm down at all costs, we end up tensing, getting annoyed, and we multiply negative thoughts like “I will never be able to do it” or “I have too much pain.” The solution is to focus on your breathing again. If this seems too difficult to you, do not hesitate to make an appointment with a meditation teacher and read good books on meditation.