Meditation for pain management
Let’s be blunt here. Pain sucks. If we could all live a pain-free and disease-free existence and then drop dead suddenly at age 90, well that would be pretty ideal. But that is not the reality of living on this orb. Pain is a part of being a living thing and none of us are immune. There are small pains that most people will experience, like a mild headache or a stomach ache from eating too much. And there are large pains that some people will experience, like pain from serious disease like cancer, from surgeries, from kidney stones, from multiple sclerosis. Let’s not forget childbirth.
While we can’t meditate our pain away, and meditation is definitely not a cure for pain, there are absolutely benefits from meditating while you’re experiencing pain. These can include:
- Acceptance of the pain as it is right now, recognizing that it could change
- Becoming aware of other parts of our body that aren’t experiencing pain
- Noticing that pain changes in sensation; sometimes it is more intense and sometimes it is less intense and realizing that pain isn’t static
When you are in pain, find the most comfortable position you can get into for your meditation for pain. If that is sitting on a cushion or chair, great. If it’s lying down on a bed, or propped up by lots of pillows, or with a cat or dog on your lap, also great. Do what feels best for your body at this moment.
Related reading: 10 inspiring quotes on living your own unique life
10 Free Guided Meditations for Pain – To Help You Feel Better
1. Body Scan Meditation for Chronic Pain Relief
This 12 minute meditation is meant to aid symptoms of chronic pain and fatigue. You are encouraged to soften your resistance to what you’re experiencing, and to find acceptance of your whole body, both the comfortable and uncomfortable parts. This is so not easy, as I definitely have the inclination to reject the painful, tired parts of me when they occur. But the guide talks about this being something to practice, not something most of us will get right away.
2. Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief
This meditation is led by Jon Kabat-Zinn, who is the founder of the highly acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. It’s an intensive eight-week program that teaches mindfulness using many different methods, including sitting and walking meditations, body awareness, and yoga. I almost didn’t include this one as it is a 10-minute excerpt of a longer paid program. But it felt like a good short meditation with some useful guided suggestions and didn’t feel lacking in its excerpt-ness.
3. Guided Mindfulness Meditation on Coping with Pain
This exceptionally relaxing meditation is 20 minutes long. The guide leads you through a gentle awareness of the pain you are experiencing and encourages you to find a relationship with the pain. It includes an interesting exercise of visualizing your pain outside of you, in front of you. The guide was practically born to lead meditations as his voice is so incredibly soothing.
4. Guided Meditation for Acute or Chronic Pain
The purpose of this meditation is to help us use the power of the mind to take the edge off acute or chronic pain. It is 12 minutes long and we are led to let go with each exhale, and also to become even a little friendly with our pain. The guide is a woman from New Zealand who spent seven years (!) sailing the Pacific Ocean with her husband, dropping into a meditative state as the boat moved with the water.
5. Pain Relief & Healing Guided Meditation “The Cleansing Pool”
This is one of those meditations that take you on a guided journey, in this case to a peaceful garden with a healing pool of water. If you’re someone who likes a bit more of a story to your guided meditation than simply following your breath or doing a body scan, this meditation may be for you. There is a good amount of silence between the speaking, which I always appreciate, and gentle water sounds. It is 20 minutes long.
6. Breathing and visualizing for birth – Riding the waves (surges/ contractions)
Years ago when I thought about having a baby, I had a vague idea that a water birth sounded interesting. I liked the calm, peaceful images that conjured, and even entertained the thought of home birth. Fast forward several years and a high-risk pregnancy later. I learned that there was no way any of that would be in the plans. I was very grateful to be at a hospital for our daughter’s birth and to have the medical care that we did. During the pregnancy, I bought the HypnoBirthing book and CD and listened to the two meditation tracks all the time. I also listened to guided meditations while I was in the early stages of labor.
As someone who has challenges with anxiety, I was surprised at how peaceful I was able to feel while in labor, while in the hospital while having to remain flat on my back for continuous fetal monitoring. I would highly recommend the HypnoBirthing book, no matter what type of birth you think you are going to have. I chose to include the guided meditation above because so many birth meditations seem more for pregnancy and before the big event. This one seems much more focused on during labor and delivery than many I have come across.
7. Pain relief and Pain Management Guided Meditation
This meditation for pain leads you through a body scan starting with your head and going through the body all the way to the toes. It progresses through all the muscles that could hold tension and guides you to let go and relax each part. After your body is relaxed, you are led through a dialogue with your pain. This is a unique meditation that puts a gentle but direct focus on your pain during parts of the audio. Dig deep to feel if this is something you’re comfortable with right now. It is 32 minutes, so choose this one if you would like a bit longer meditation.
8. Guided Meditation. Self-Healing: Pain Relief
The pacing and sound quality of this meditation are excellent. This helps enable you to simply concentrate on what is being spoken. The music is gentle and not annoying – obviously a good thing when it comes to listening to a guided relaxation. This isn’t a given as I have come across some bad background music out there in my years of using guided meditations. There are many positive comments for this 13-minute video from people who benefited from pain relief after listening.
9. Guided Meditation for easing aches, pain, headaches
During this 28 minute meditation, the guide encourages us to believe in the power of our own minds. He uses an analogy where he leads us to notice the sensation of clothing on our bodies. There is a sensation on the skin, which will differ depending on the fabric we are wearing. It’s a sensation that we mute almost all of the time. It’s just not in our awareness.
This exercise sparks the idea that perhaps there is a way to have our attention be muted on pain sensations we are experiencing. This is a very different technique to focused attention on the pain that some of the other guided meditations for pain use. One isn’t better than the other. It depends on what works for you, and this might change from day today.
10. Pain Relief & Healing Guided Meditation
This is the shortest meditation for pain in the list; at only 9 minutes it can be fit into a busier day. The pain/sensation we are feeling is used as an anchor to ground us in the present moment. This is much like how the breath is often used as a focus in meditation or yoga. We are encouraged to let go of the story we might have about our pain.
Dive deeper into using meditation for pain relief
If you would like to read more about meditation for pain, here are some very accessible books and CDs to help. These are some of my favorites (and also happen to be bestsellers too so other people agree!):