In collaboration with Keck School of Medicine

Meditation Shows Promise in Helping those with Chronic Pain

Those unfamiliar with meditation may think of it as some new-age practice that they find confusing. Many people believe they can’t meditate or that it’s something only people from certain religions engage in. The truth is not even close to this, as more people learn about the benefits of meditation, and it becomes more mainstream as a powerful way to help live a better quality of life, including for those with chronic pain.

Like what you’re learning?  Download a brochure for our online, postgraduate pain medicine certificate or master’s degree program in partnership with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Meditation as an approach for alleviating chronic pain was the focus of a study published in the November 2023 journal Cureus [1]. Researchers shared in-depth findings about the benefits of meditation, including the impact that it has on helping those with chronic pain. They cite numerous prior published studies that add to the growing mound of evidence that meditation has a lot to offer those who engage in it.

The researchers point out different kinds of meditation, including mindfulness, guided imagery, body scan, loving-kindness, vipassana, transcendental, etc. They suggest that people can choose whatever type of meditation they prefer. However, the one done most often by those with chronic pain is mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is easy to do and can be done anywhere. All one has to do is get into a comfortable position and then focus on the breath. While meditation of all types focuses on one object, sound, or concept, with mindfulness meditation the person focuses on the breath. Each time their mind wanders, they bring it back to their breath without judgment.

The researchers report that people can start doing it for even five minutes at a time and then work up to longer lengths. The many benefits of regular meditation include helping reduce chronic pain intensity, lessen stress and worry, promote calmness and relaxation, lessen negative emotions, improve pain tolerance, improve sleep quality, improve overall quality of life, etc.  

Meditation has been shown through numerous studies to provide benefits because of the way it leads to neurotransmitter changes in the brain. Meditation raises serotonin levels and lowers norepinephrine, which are both linked to pain relief. Additionally, meditation helps to reduce inflammation in the body, and inflammation and chronic pain are usually related.

Those with chronic pain often experience stress, anxiety, and depression. Adding meditation to their daily routine and pain management plan may be a powerful way to help their condition and quality of life. This is one more tool that those with chronic pain can turn to to find some relief.

Earn an Online Postgraduate Degree in Pain Medicine

Like what you’re learning? Consider enrolling in the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC’s online, competency-based certificate or master’s program in Pain Medicine in partnership with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

This article was originally published on Confronting Chronic Pain by Dr. Steven Richeimer, Director Pain Medicine Master and Certificate.


  1. Cureus. Meditation: A Promising Approach for Alleviating Chronic Pain. November 2023.
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