Brain imagings support the hypothesis that the transition from acute to chronic pain is largely due to a learnt behavior and thought process.
There are several studies supporting the value of mindfulness meditation (MM) programs for decreasing distress associated with persistent pain and unlearning negative relationship with pain.
Realistically most of my patients with persistent pain never complete full MM programs and if they do, they don’t maintain the habit in their daily lives.
This small 2017 pilot study aimed to see the benefits of a 30 seconds MM technique called it a self-guided Mindfulness-based Interoceptive Exposure Task (MIET). MIET is to be practiced daily every time pain sensations become prominent.
The subjects in the study included those diagnosed with chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, post-surgical pain, whiplash, and migraine headaches. Most also had co-morbid conditions such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder
Participants practiced the 30 second MIET repeatedly over 15 days with focus on altering their relationship with their pain and not to taking their pain personally.
They study found that compliance to MIET was high and the participants reported of having significantly less pain, anxiety regarding pain, stress, and depression over the course of the 2-week study and at 2-month follow up.
One of the five 30 second MIET instructions were: “As much as you can, learn to accept the sensation, instead of resenting it and reacting to it emotionally. Try to prevent any emotional reaction while remaining aware of it.”
Here is the task used in the study:
Mindfulness-based Interoceptive Exposure Task
Below are instructions to assist you in applying the skill when pain intensifies.
- Locate the part in the body in which the sensation is the most intense
- Focus all your attention at the centre of the most intense area
- Immediately, begin to perceive what the sensation is composed of, in terms of its four basic characteristics:
- Mass (is it light, heavy, neutral?)
b. Temperature (is it cold, warm, hot, neutral?)
c. Motion (does it move? Slow or fast? Is it immobile?
d. Cohesiveness (is it dense, solid, constricted? or is it loose,
- While you monitor these basic characteristics, try not to identify with the sensation and perceive it just as a physical event that is impermanent, knowing that sensations always change.
- As much as you can, learn to accept the sensation, instead of resenting it and reacting to it emotionally. Try to prevent any emotional reaction while remaining aware of it.
Reference: Cayoun B. Et al Mindfulness Immediate and Lasting Chronic Pain Reduction Following a Brief Self-Implemented Mindfulness-Based Interoceptive Exposure Task: a Pilot Study 2017pp1-13 Oct