My Experience With Meditation For Pain

Well, when you’re truly in severe pain, meditation can only go so far. It reminds me of how I was prior to back surgery. The pain was basically unbearable. And, I’d go to physical therapy. And, they’d have me do a bunch of stretches and things. And, I’d walk out of there in a slightly better mood…maybe…but, I’d also walk out thinking that the whole thing was pointless.

And, I was practicing meditation. And, the truth is…in my case…there was no meditating away the pain that comes with broken vertebrae and cracked discs. But, I will say this…the meditation did help me handle the problems of my life a bit better. In other words, I was still in pain, but I was more effective.

You’ll notice below Grant says, “…meditation has been associated with reduced activation in pain-processing brain regions.” So, the research indicates it helps. But, it’s also a matter of degree. If there’s some guy who just got his thumb smashed with a hammer…let’s just be real-world realistic…he can meditate his ass off for the next day but that thumb’s going to hurt! I mean…let’s just keep it real!

Here’s some interesting research below about meditation as a strategy for pain management.

The Nature of Pain Perception: Neurological Mechanisms and Alleviation Strategies

Pain, as a complex and intricate phenomenon, serves as a crucial warning system that safeguards the human body from potential harm. The understanding of how pain works and how the brain processes it has evolved significantly over the years, shedding light on both the physiological and psychological dimensions of this experience. Furthermore, various strategies, including meditation, have been explored to alleviate pain, highlighting the multifaceted approach to managing and diminishing its impact.

Neurological Basis of Pain Perception

The perception of pain involves intricate interactions between the nervous system, the brain, and cognitive processes. Nociceptors, specialized sensory receptors, play a pivotal role in detecting harmful stimuli and transmitting these signals to the spinal cord and brain for processing. The brain regions implicated in pain processing include the thalamus, somatosensory cortex, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which together form a network known as the pain matrix (Melzack & Casey, 1968). The pain matrix processes the sensory-discriminative, affective-motivational, and cognitive-evaluative aspects of pain (Tracey & Mantyh, 2007). This complex interplay results in the comprehensive experience of pain, encompassing not only the physical sensation but also the emotional and cognitive responses it elicits.

Strategies for Alleviating Pain

Mitigating pain involves a multi-faceted approach that targets both the physiological and psychological components of the experience. Pharmaceutical interventions, such as analgesic medications, aim to modulate pain signals at various stages of the pain pathway, from the peripheral nociceptors to the central nervous system (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2015). However, these interventions are often accompanied by potential side effects and may not always provide complete relief.

In recent years, non-pharmacological techniques have gained prominence as complementary methods for pain management. Meditation, in particular, has garnered attention due to its potential to modulate pain perception through cognitive and emotional processes. Mindfulness meditation, a form of meditation that encourages non-judgmental awareness of present experiences, has demonstrated promising results in reducing pain perception and improving pain-related outcomes (Zeidan et al., 2015). This effect is thought to be mediated by the brain’s ability to alter its responses to pain through neuroplasticity, as evidenced by functional and structural changes observed in brain imaging studies (Grant et al., 2010).

Effectiveness of Meditation in Pain Management

Meditation has emerged as a valuable tool in the arsenal of pain management strategies due to its holistic approach to addressing the cognitive and emotional dimensions of pain. Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of meditation in alleviating pain. For instance, a study by Zeidan et al. (2015) found that mindfulness meditation significantly reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness ratings in participants subjected to experimentally induced pain. Moreover, meditation has been associated with reduced activation in pain-processing brain regions, such as the anterior cingulate cortex (Grant et al., 2010). These findings suggest that meditation can modulate pain perception by altering neural responses and facilitating a more adaptive cognitive appraisal of pain.


In conclusion, the intricate nature of pain perception involves a sophisticated interplay between the nervous system, brain regions, and cognitive processes. The pain experience encompasses sensory, emotional, and cognitive aspects that collectively contribute to its complexity. As a result, pain management strategies require a comprehensive approach that addresses both the physiological and psychological dimensions of pain. Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, has emerged as a promising technique in pain management, offering a mechanism through which pain perception can be altered and managed more effectively. As our understanding of pain continues to evolve, integrating meditation alongside traditional approaches holds the potential to enhance pain relief and improve the overall quality of life for individuals dealing with pain.


Grant, J. A., Courtemanche, J., Duerden, E. G., Duncan, G. H., & Rainville, P. (2010). Cortical thickness and pain sensitivity in zen meditators. Emotion, 10(1), 43-53.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Wilson, S. J., Bailey, M. L., & Andridge, R. (2015). “Minding the body”: Yoga, diaphragmatic breathing, and the vagus nerve. Medical Hypotheses, 84(2), 226-234.

Melzack, R., & Casey, K. L. (1968). Sensory, motivational, and central control determinants of pain: A new conceptual model. The Skin Senses, 423-443.

Tracey, I., & Mantyh, P. W. (2007). The cerebral signature for pain perception and its modulation. Neuron, 55(3), 377-391.

Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2011). Neural correlates of mindfulness meditation-related anxiety relief. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(6), 751-759.