Reduce Pain with Focused Relaxation
(also known as Meditation)
Learning how to meditate will help you control your autonomic nervous system. This is the nervous system that controls things that you don't normally think about. This system manages things like your blood pressure and heart rate, how your food is digested, and kidney function.
Sympathetic vs Parasympathetic
Your Autonomic Nervous System can be divided into two separate nervous systems, the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
These two systems, the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic, work together to balance many of your bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, eyesight, blood flow, digestion and on and on and on.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
It is the sympathetic nervous system that generates your "flight or fight" response in times of danger. It raises your heart rate and blood pressure increasing the blood flow to your muscles allowing you to run faster, jump higher, and be stronger.
In times of stress it widens your pupils helping you see better, enlarges your airway helping you breathe better, and reduces urine production.
It releases hormones and neurotransmitters that make sensations, including pain, sharper and quicker.
Details of the Sympathetic Nervous System.
Learning How to Meditate will stimulate Your Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system is known as the "rest and digest" nervous system. It will slowdown and calm many of your body functions while stimulating other systems associated with leisure.
In times of relaxation it functions to increase blood flow to your digestive organs, reduce heart rate and blood pressure, and relax your muscles.
It releases hormones and neurotransmitters that make sensations, including pain, softer and less sharp.
You could say that these two systems work against each other to keep your body's many different systems in balance. But, in reality they work together. They keep your body ready for whatever is happening at the time.
Fight or Flight >>>>>> vs <<<<<< Rest and Digest
When your caveman ancestors were attacked by a saber tooth tiger the sympathetic nervous system would take over and the parasympathetic would be suppressed.
When the danger had passed, and they were relaxing enjoying a leisurely meal, the parasympathetic would take over and the sympathetic system would be suppressed.
Image thanks to Karoly.Czifra.viaWikimediaCommons
Systems You Can Control
These two systems work with a complex system of neurotransmitters and hormones.
In times of danger your body is flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and your nervous system is overloaded with stress neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and glutamate.
When it is time to relax the stress hormones and neurotransmitters are replaced by the "feel good" parasympathetic messengers such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins.
When You Know How to Meditate You are in Control
Meditation shuts down your sympathetic system and stimulates your parasympathetic system to release all of the "feel good" messengers that can improve your life.
The more you meditate the more these chemicals will work their magic. Learn more about Neurotransmitters and How they Affect the Pain that You Feel.
It really is like magic. They reduce stress and make you feel good about who you are. They can improve your outlook and make your life more enjoyable. Knowing how to meditate will improve your life.
Meditation will work to reduce pain in several different ways.
It stimulates the release of endorphins which are your body's own natural painkiller. These are your body's own feel good hormones.
Endorphins attach to the same pain receptors as morphine. They will improve your mood and help to control pain.
Many different activities, including meditation, sexual stimulation and long distance running will stimulate the release of endorphins.
Stimulate the Release of some Neurotransmitters and Suppress Others
Neurotransmitters conduct the pain signal to your brain. But not all neurotransmitters are created equal. Some of them (created by the sympathetic system) boost that signal making the pain sharper and stronger. Other neurotransmitters (parasympathetic) will slow down and suppress the pain signals making your pain duller and more tolerable.
In a state of deep relaxation you can focus on your bodily sensations. You can think about your pain in a non-judgemental way. Comparing the way it feels to other parts of your body will put your pain in perspective and make it less overwhelming.
Another thing that you can do with meditation is Imagineering or using Guided Imagery.
This will help you to focus on positive or pleasurable thoughts; while avoiding or suppressing negative thoughts and pain.
Meditation may not make you pain free. But, it can definitely make your pain more tolerable, and make you feel better about learning to live with it.