The simple answer to this question is ‘Yes’.
And I do not need to search on google or quote any studies or research papers in order to prove this. I am stating this by personal experience.
For research, I went on google, as most of us would. Here is an article that talks about treating chronic pain through meditation.
If you are an amputee, there is a 99% chance that you suffer from chronic pain. It starts as phantom pain and then transforms into residual limb pain. You can find all of my articles on phantom pain or residual limb pain here.
In this article I’ll mainly write about how meditation helps ME deal with my residual limb pain. The article that I’ve referred to in my first link, talks about how “mental processes can alter sensory phenomena, including pain”. It provides details in medical & scientific terms. Here is the quote from the article:
“The primary somatosensory cortex, anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex all experienced altered levels of activation due to meditation. The primary somatosensory cortex is the area of the brain directly involved in pain processing. If a person cuts himself with a knife, this area of the brain figures out where the pain is and an initial pain level. The anterior insula, the brain region involved in perceiving and regulating the body (it participates in monitoring a person’s heart rate and blood pressure for example), appraises pain in the body. After the person’s hand has been cut by the knife, the insula judges how painful the resulting wound is.The anterior cingulate cortex regulates a person’s emotional response to various stimuli. The person who cut his hand then feels angry, scared, or frustrated by the wound. Finally, the prefrontal cortex, the command center of the brain, takes information and guides thoughts and actions, including the inhibition of inappropriate thoughts, distractions, and feelings. After beginning to feel angry, the man with the cut on his hand acts out because of the wound.
Meditation has been shown to alter these four areas of the brain”.
In a nutshell, Meditation affects all areas of the brain, and since all pain sensations are processed in the brain (via our nervous system), we can use meditation for chronic pain relief.
However, besides all the above scientific jargon and analysis, there are two key points, solely based on personal experience, that I want to share with the amputation community.
- Meditation does not actually treat chronic pain. It just helps us cope better by building patience & tolerance. Meditation does not even reduce the intensity of pain. It just builds up our ability to cope with it.
- Exercises such as Yoga, do reduce the intensity of residual limb pain.
Although I’m not an expert on brain function, I do practice meditation. And it is not always through lighting candles or intense sticks and chanting mantras in a group, as is usually the perception about meditation classes in the west. The primary goal in meditation is to be able to control our mind. This essentially includes detachment or control of all our sensory perceptions – sight, sound, touch, taste & feel. Pain just happens to be one of these in the category of ‘feel’.