One challenge people face in detox, especially detox from opioids, is pain. In addition to the irritability, nausea, and insomnia common for any kind of withdrawal, opioid withdrawal often includes bone, muscle, and joint pain as well. Your body is so used to feeling no pain at all that even normal sensations are painful. What’s worse, chronic pain is often the reason people get addicted to opioids to begin with. The idea that staying in recovery means living with pain can be an obstacle for people needing treatment.
Fortunately, there are healthier ways to manage pain. Some of them include therapeutic massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, and counselling. One particularly effective way to deal with pain is meditation.
Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, has been well researched. It has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can aggravate pain. More importantly, it can change your perception of pain.
One study on pain and meditation applied heat to participants’ legs and asked them to rate how much pain they felt. Experienced zen meditators felt less pain than non-meditators for any level of heat. Brain scans during the experiments showed that their brains actually process pain differently from non-meditators. Brain scans of zen meditators showed bright spots in the part of the brain that processes sensory information from the leg, indicating that they were more focused on the actual sensations of the pain. Non-meditators’ brains showed activation in various other parts, indicating they were more preoccupied with interpretations of the pain.
To put it differently, meditators felt pain but non-meditators suffered. The difference is subtle. Most of what we think is pain is actually what we tell ourselves about pain. When you feel pain, try to notice what you’re thinking. Typically, we think things like, “This is unbearable,” or “this will never stop.” Sometimes we imagine the pain is a symptom of something dangerous, or even fatal. These thoughts just make the pain worse. Mindfulness meditation is basically learning to experience pain for what it is–sensory information–and letting go of interpretations that turn pain into suffering.
The bad news is that unlike massage or acupuncture, meditation takes a bit of practice. The good news is that even eight weeks of short daily practice can make a big difference. Once you start to get the hang of it, mindfulness is a resource that’s always available to you when you start to experience pain.
Pain doesn’t have to be an impediment to recovery. At Gardens Wellness Center, we offer a variety of ways to manage pain and support you in recovery. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at email@example.com.