During our meditation sessions, when we are silently doing our practice, we may have different experiences. Some people see white light, others feel different strange sensations and others feel pain.
Pain is one of the most unexpected experiences in meditation for most practitioners and it may come as a shock to us. We may think that we are doing our meditation wrong which is why we are feeling pain. On the contrary, pain is among the common experiences for most meditators and it is usually an indication of something happening within us.
Here, we are going to delve deep into the different types of pain experienced while meditating, their causes, and how to deal with them properly.
The Different Types of Pain Experienced During Meditation
There are various types of pain that we might feel as we are in our meditation practice. They include:
1. Pain that comes and goes away after meditation – This is the kind of pain that you will feel immediately or slightly after you begin your meditation session. It stays with you through your practice and just when you have finished the session and have gone to your other duties and activities for the day, you notice that it has disappeared. Such kind of pain is felt at the knees, the lower back, neck, ankle, and middle back area.
2. Pain that stays with you during and after meditation – This is the type of pain that will normally spring up when you’re a few minutes into your meditation session. Maybe you sat or knelt for your meditation session, and just when you are about 3 minutes deep, you start feeling some discomfort that later becomes pain or you feel pain right off the bat. This pain continues to persist to the end of your meditation session and even long after you’re done with your practice and have gone about your day.
3. Pain that comes and disappears within your meditation session – This pain is very short-lived. Usually, it happens within a fraction of a minute. It might come and hold on for a while and then disappear without you noticing it if you are too immersed in your session. It may be mild pain that resembles discomfort but with a pinch of pain. However, for some people, it might be a short sharp pain that persists for a minute or two and then goes away on its own.
It is always important to take time and determine the exact type of pain you’re experiencing so that you’re able to get the right solution for it.
For you to be successful with determining the pain, you have to be aware of it and pay attention to how it comes and goes and how it affects your body. When you do this for a couple of sessions and watch the pattern of the pain, you will be able to discern the kind of pain it is.
The Main Causes of Pain During Meditation
* Poor sitting positions – Many sitting meditation styles come with their recommended sitting postures. And while most of the postures and positions are well-known to offer different positive effects and influence uplifting meditation experiences, it might be hard for most beginners to adopt them. For example, many sitting meditations encourage the practitioners to work with the lotus positions including the full lotus, the quarter lotus, half-lotus, and others.
Sitting in such positions for the first few times can be quite a hard task and might bring about temporary pain if you have never sat like that before. On top of that, sitting in the same posture for a long time, keeping the arms, ankles, and knees crossed, sitting in positions that don’t support the back, and leaning toward one side while seated which makes the spine not upright, to name a few, also encourage the possibility of experiencing pain on our backs, knees, and ankles.
* Muscle tension – Our muscles may also be a cause of the pain we struggle with when we practice meditation. When the muscles feel tight and stiff due to long periods of inactivity or extended periods of physical exercise, we may start having muscle pains, which may be what we are feeling when we settle down for our meditation sessions. Muscle tension can also be caused by stings or bites from insects, injuries caused by too much cold or heat, infections, or even surgical medication.
* An injury – Sitting in stillness and quietness for a long period helps to reveal injuries to ourselves. If by accident we scraped a small section of our knees or suffered small cuts when playing sports, we may not notice them right away since they are small and we are very active. However, when we now have our quiet alone time, we become more aware of such things. We realize a small cut on our palms or ankles after experiencing short sharp pains that keep coming and going in that part of the body.
Moreover, there are times we might feel pain from old injuries which are healing. Having head, back, and shoulder pains that get stronger when meditating with added heaviness in these areas may signal recovery from deep past trauma. Meditation may be helping you release this pain, stress, and tension that got built up and is accelerating your healing process.
* A hidden health condition – Pain that keeps recurring and which doesn’t go away even after meditation may be due to a health condition in your body that is hidden. Some of the most common health conditions associated with pain include appendicitis (which comes with pain in the lower abdomen), kidney stones (with pain below the ribs), kidney stones (with pain in the lower abdomen as well as the groin area), arthritis, migraine headaches, slipped disc (with pain in the leg or arm), frozen shoulder, gout (with pain in the joint), and fibromyalgia (which causes musculoskeletal pain).
How to Deal With The Pain
Dealing with the pain you experienced can be approached in many ways. Since we have seen that there are varying types of pain and unique causes, it is only right that we approach each of the cases uniquely.
The most recommended ways to handle and overcome the pain completely are these:
Change Your Meditation Position
If the pain you’re feeling comes only when you’re meditating and immediately goes away when you finish and continue working on your daily tasks, one of the problems may be your meditation postures and positions. And for this issue, you are encouraged to try out different postures other than the ones you are working with currently. Research the different alternative postures for the meditation style you are doing and try to adopt them. Work with them for a while and see if they help to reduce the pain.
Also, if the pain keeps coming and makes you super uncomfortable, you might try switching the meditation style you are doing with another one that doesn’t require you to work with the positions you are using at the moment. For example, if you are doing kneeling or sitting meditation, you can try switching them up with standing, lying down, or walking meditations and see how that works for you.
If you are a beginner and still new to your practice which might require demanding postures, you can try stretching out a bit before you begin your meditation session. Doing that can help keep you flexible enough to easily get into the posture without struggling too much. Also, allowing yourself time to fully get comfortable with the practice helps. If you are just a few days into your practice and you’re feeling pain, give yourself some more time and you might notice that it has disappeared sooner than you expected.
You can also consider using meditation cushions, benches to make your sitting position more comfortable, and it may help dissolve the pain. We also recommend reading Insight Timer’s recommendations for dealing with pain in specific areas of your body.
Allow The Feeling to Remain Without Resisting it
This solution works well for people who are experiencing pain that is based on tension in the body. Naturally, when we feel pain or tension or discomfort, we try to fight it so that we overcome it and see for sure that it goes away entirely.
However, if you can instead sit with the pain without doing anything that is aimed at resisting it or trying to get rid of it, it can go away on its own. By just letting it run wild and be free, it eventually works its way out of your system without any intervention needed from your side.
If it is fresh pain, it might take a few minutes, hours, or days to go away but if it is old pain or chronic pain, it may take up to a few weeks.
By dealing with the pain with a welcoming attitude, you allow it to express itself, reach its peak and then it slowly dims away.
Practice Awareness of The Pain
Being aware of the pain without forming judgments about it or labeling it is another great way to deal with the pain you’re having. Here, you just simply observe it. How it arises, the area where the pain is felt the most, the sensations that come with it, how you try to resist it, and everything else that is happening which is associated with the pain.
When we are aware of the pain, its effect on our bodies drops significantly. Normally, when we are not aware of it, our perception of it is oftentimes blown out of proportion and we feel much of it, but when we become aware, we are able to perceive reality as it is. The pain may not be as much as we might perceive. The thoughts, feelings, and sensations we have of the pain amplify its effects but when we are aware of how we think and how we feel about it, everything changes.
As earlier mentioned, the pain you may be having may be an onset of a health condition that has been in your body for a while now or one that is just gaining ground. And while you might think meditation is causing it, it may be that meditation is revealing it.
The best way to know if you need to get diagnosed is by first observing the pain for a couple of days, usually 2 to 3 days. Understand the pain well in terms of when you feel it, how long it stays when it comes, if it persists for more than 2 days, and if the intensity is increasing or decreasing as the days go by.
If you notice that the pain keeps on even after meditation and is increasing with time, that is a sign that you visit a doctor for proper and professional medical attention. Also, if you notice other symptoms appear in the 2 to 3 days of observation, you should have a visit to your doctor.
Moreover, if you try the other mentioned solutions and the pain still gets worse, your body may be trying to tell you something and only your doctor can tell for sure what it is.
In summary, the pain usually shows that you may be having a bad posture that is affecting the comfort of your body as you meditate, or it may be a period in which your body is releasing the tension in the muscles that has been there for a long period, or an old injury you’re recovering from or even a hidden health condition you may be having.
By determining if the pain persists after you’re done with your practice and being aware of it and how you react to it, you are able to understand it well and know the right course of action depending on why it is constantly coming up.
Sometimes, it may go away on its own and at other times, it may require you to visit a health care provider for a professional medical check-up as it may be a serious case.