Growing Focus on Mindfulness for Treating Chronic Pain

Growing Focus on Mindfulness for Treating Chronic Pain

Sean Fargo

Sean Fargo

By Sean Fargo

Sean Fargo is the Chief Zen Officer for a medical company (WellBrain) that is promoting mindfulness as a treatment for chronic pain.

A new pain medication is causing a paradigm shift in the medical world.

It’s called ‘mindfulness’. No, it’s not another pill with undesired side effects. It’s simply the mental habit of purposely paying attention in the present moment without judgment.

It may sound hokey or simplistic, but many recent scientific studies show that mindfulness training for 20 minutes, 3 days a week is the secret sauce to expediting physical well-being.

Think of it as a gym for the mind and medication for the pain.

Due to the proven effects of neuroplasticity, the physical process of mental metamorphosis due to repeated behavior, the more a patient practices, the stronger their mind becomes and the less pain they actually perceive.

If a patient tends to either disengage from or feel overwhelmed by their painful sensations, then specific mindfulness exercises are automatically tailored to transform each of these two unhealthy ways of coping into a liberating and empowering experience of life.

To get personalized mindfulness treatments, patients simply walk into a participating doctor’s office, answer a few questions, and receive a customized mindfulness regiment, just for them.

How long does it take? As little as 2 weeks.

Sample mindfulness exercises include:

  • mindfulness meditationmindfulness of breathing
  • mindfulness of thoughts
  • body scans
  • mindful walking
  • self-compassion
  • loving kindness for self and others
  • mindful walking

Skeptical? Try this brief exercise on for size:

  1. Choose a quiet and comfortable place where you can lie down.
  1. After you are comfortable, turn your awareness to your body. Feel the parts of your body that are in contact with the surface on which you’re laying. Also notice the position your body is in. Mentally examine your body for any areas where there may be tension—the shoulders, the jaw, the stomach. See if you can consciously release or soften those areas of the body so that you can be totally relaxed.
  1. Try to to let go of the past and the future, let go of thoughts, and to be fully engaged in the present moment. Here you focus your awareness only on your body and let everything else drop away. You make the decision that whatever you do encounter while examining your body will be met with a sense of ‘friendliness’. Basically, what that means is that you allow whatever you encounter to be as it is. You aim to meet it with equanimity and not to judge or label certain parts of the body or treat painful body parts as an enemy.
  1. With your mind, try scanning each part of your body with your awareness, one small part at a time. You may start with one foot and give it all your attention. Feel into the whole foot. Notice any sensation of temperature. Be aware of any fabrics that may be in touch with the skin or the point where the air meets the skin. Any sensations are welcome. Does it feel heavy or tired?

Don’t start engaging in thinking about it though. Simply aim to be aware of the sensations here. Continue the scan, moving your attention progressively up one leg and then the other, then to the torso, back arms, head and neck, focusing on part by part, one at a time.

  1. Meditation grassBecome aware of the entire body as a connected whole. Bring awareness to your entire physical body and maintain that awareness for a few minutes. Feel the body from within. Again, aim to stay fully present. There is no need to think about the body. Simply feel into it.

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Authored by: Sean Fargo

There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Sheryl Donnell at 11:26 am

    I am always surprised by comments such as yours in our community. I would suggest that perhaps, your pain may have never reached the levels or have stayef at the consistency high levels it has for some of us, when.I read a comment that says you wouls never consider opiates. When my pain got to the point that I was constantly in the fetal position sobbing, and all the mindfulness training I had had no longer helped, i was willing to try anything to get better. I was living at a 10 everyday. On my meds I live at a 7. I can do that just ok. I truly believe when your pain gets bad enough, you will try anything to get better.

  2. Claudia at 1:52 pm

    I have always been a firm believer that painkillers are NOT the way to go when it comes to my chronic pain symptoms. Not only are they highly addictive but the side effects that many of them have are ridiculous and dangerous. I am always looking for other options to help me get the relief I need without turning to drugs. This article was fascinating and I am definitely going to look more into mindfulness. There is a book that focuses on the non drug/surgery/injection approach called “Walking Well Again – Neutralize the Hidden Causes of Pain” by author Dr. Stuart Goldman. Dr. Goldman is happy to provide a money back guarantee if his book doesn’t help so I had to check it out. It is written in an easy to understand and easy to implement way and I found after 3 days I was already noticing a difference in my pain levels. You learn to understand your symptoms and what the common causes and patterns are of chronic pain. Feel free to check out the website first. I can’t recommend it enough: ,http://walkingwellagain.com/

  3. Sheryl Donnell at 5:01 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. We all practice mindfulness all the time however when our pain is out of control, that’s when it no longer works. Yes doctors, we have pain that is devastatingly painful. It is so bad that none of the things we use 24/7 already to try to not think.about our unrelenting pain will work. That’s when we look to have medication to help us. And that’s why we get so.upset with you when you suggest it to us. We are thinking you’re nuts. We don’t ask for your help when we are managing the pain. We ask when nothing HELPS!!!

  4. Janet Wilson at 3:13 am

    I have tried mindfulness specifically but despite what this person obviously not in pain states it did nothing for my pain. Consider me an advocate for Dignitas in Switzerland be caused they will relieve the pain.

  5. Danny at 7:39 pm

    This is related to both biofeedback and relaxation techniques. I’ve commented on this before. I have been trained in bio & relax extensively. I use them often, but regardless of the MD’s comment, they do not reduce my pain. (I won’t try to speak for anyone but myself.) I do find that I am able to reduce the tension in my body that results from my severe head pain, so that’s something. But it’s not a pain reliever, in my opinion. And even though I continually use these tools, neither works better for me than being in deep, sincere prayer. My prayers are the most ssuccessful form of “mindfulness” that cannot be exceeded. Again, I say that as it applies to me and my experiences over the last 25+ years.

  6. Deborah at 11:52 am

    I will try this. Thank you so much

  7. CathyM at 10:47 am

    I appreciate that mindfulness can be used to assist in dealing with the stress of having chronic pain. I have yet to speak to anyone who has had it decrease or eliminate pain. And the part that no one seems to mention is how incredibly painful it is to focus on pain sensations – you talk about “tension”… not Level 8 pain! That is a different ball o’ wax. I think people should give it a try and see if it helps. But I am very concerned that doctors will use this as an “excuse” to refuse needed medicine, and then to say the patient “wasn’t trying hard enough” if they don’t get pain relief. I have already heard of some of this happening, and it complicates the issue greatly. I”m sure you’re aware that the studies done about whether mindfulness meditation relieves pain were done using healthy subjects, NOT those who have chronic pain. The evidence still needs to be gathered from those who have months or years of pain before they try this. If you know of such studies, could you please list them here? Thank you.

  8. Mark Ibsen MD at 9:21 am

    Yes.
    It works.
    Keep talking about it.
    Thank you.