For many patients, meditation is a technique they can practice on their own to significantly relieve their pain. During a meditation session, patients learn to relax, focus inwardly, and release tension and distracting thoughts.
Dorothy Teesdale, 70, a retired nurse in Lowell, Mich.
When Dorothy Teesdale's doctor diagnosed her with peripheral neuropathy in 1997, he told her there was nothing she could do but live with it. "Being a nurse I said, 'No, that's not enough'," says Teesdale. "Back then I taught visualization, relaxation, and meditation techniques to young women preparing for labor, and I just knew that it could help me too." Teesdale began to use many of the techniques of mindfulness-based stress reduction to control her own pain.
"If I've overdone it, which I do frequently, then I really suffer, but instead of taking a painkiller like Darvocet for severe pain, I prefer to meditate," says Teesdale. "When I sit down in my lounge chair, I visualize walking on the beach at Lake Michigan and think about the cool water coming up on the shore and wetting my feet or the hot sand under my feet. I'll also relax my body, starting at my toes, thinking of moving each one separately even if I don't feel them," says Teesdale. "The whole time I'm relaxing and keeping my mind open."
Kathy Rembisz, 40, a freelance writer in Allentown, Pa.
"Meditation is something that I can count on when I'm in pain," says Kathy Rembisz, who struggles with pain, dizziness, and imbalance from fibromyalgia, Meniere's disease, and sarcoidosis.
Because she suffers from a combination of conditions, Rembisz can't take many medications. Meditation can really take the edge off the pain, says Rembisz. "It helps me refocus so that I can get together what's left of the day."
"If I can't focus or I'm in pain and upset, I'll sit in a chair or in the sun and close my eyes. I'll imagine I'm on the beach, and I'll visualize the sounds and the smells. I'll breathe, and it really helps me detach," says Rembisz. "It doesn't mean that my pain goes away altogether, but I may be able to help myself feel better and control my pain."