Meditation on Pain


In the last few years and with the recent death of Prince from an opioid overdose, there has been much concern about what should be done about RX painkillers, addiction, and overdose.

As an oncology nurse, I have mixed feelings abut making it harder for patients to get the pain medication they may need. It can also be a worrisome burden for physicians having to make the call regarding the severity of a patient’s pain vs. possible abuse or addiction, when deciding if they should prescribe pain meds. I also understand there is a serious problem with opioid abuse, addiction, and death due to overdose and I am very supportive of alternative and integrative methods of pain control.

Working with cancer patients, I have witnessed many scenarios regarding pain management. I remember a patient who had rectal cancer and was in extreme pain. His wife was a nurse and did not allow him to take the pain meds prescribed because she was afraid he would become addicted. I have also taken care of patients who constantly say they lose their pain medications or someone in their family is taking them. It’s really hard with cancer patients because many of them are in excruciating pain and really need an opioid to control their pain. When the CDC recently published new guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, they specified that theses guidelines were for people outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care.

I just read an article in the New York times about an ER in New Jersey who has started using alternatives like laughing gas, trigger-point injections, and even a therapy harp, in place of opioids. I find this very encouraging as they have had much success in decreasing opioid use and still controlling their patient’s pain.

I recently had a major operation and was on a PCA pump of Dilaudid for 2 days. I was taken off the PCA pump right before bed, with an order for prn Percocet. I was worried that I would wake up in pain and told the nurse about my concern. She gave me 1 Percocet before I fell asleep. Sure enough, I woke up around 1am, got up to the bathroom, and was in so much pain I was crying and could not get back to my bed without help.

I was discharged the next day and given Tylenol #3 for pain. My surgeon told me he had not written a triplicate in 20 years and did not like to do so. In the past I was given hydrocodone for pain which now requires a triplicate.

When I got home, the Tylenol #3 helped some but I still had a lot of pain! I had to find ways to get through these sensations, and breathing exercises and meditation helped a lot.

During my recovery, I found a meditation I learned during my Yoga Teacher Training. If you are experiencing any pain, give it a try. It is also something you can share with your patients.

What are your thoughts regarding the use of alternatives to opioids for pain control? What techniques have you used in your practice with people who are experiencing pain? Please share in the comments.

7 Comments on “Meditation on Pain

  1. This is a boon for all nurses and patients. Appreciated you sharing your own journey. Your meditation is full of caring and love. Lovely voice quality. The 5 qualities of pain- this is gift. I really needed this myself today. Powerful! Feeling the love. Yes, I am resting now in this space. Grateful. xo

    • Thank you for your comment Annette! Your opinion means a lot to me and I am happy to hear the meditation was beneficial for you!

  2. Angela- Well, now you bring up many important points. Meditation and other non-pharmaceutical methods can be very helpful, but best if practiced BEFORE pain is so severe that learning something new is difficult. I also think that there is a new tendency for care providers to feel like their hands are tied with regard to prescribing appropriately for pain. As a prescriber, I know that the general tendency in my community is to refer to pain management for chronic pain and not prescribe triplicates at all to avoid the hoopla. In fact, even tylenol #3 or tramadol are prescribed with way more limitations than before and patients often go without their pain being properly managed. The problems with dependency and overdose is real, but so is our responsibility to manage pain properly. That takes time, something many prescribers have in limited quantity. This is a big problem worthy of much debate, no doubt. Most importantly, I believe that if we teach our loved ones- including children- early on about relaxation, meditation and other modalities of self care we will have the tools to help ourselves during times of physical and emotional pain. This will also help so that less pain meds will be needed.

    • Hi Carmen! Thanks for commenting on my post. You bring up an important point in regards to educating/learning alternative pain-control methods BEFORE pain is severe. I agree with you 100%. This is obviously not always possible if pain is not expected but could be a planned nursing intervention prior to a surgical procedure or possibly with a newly diagnosed cancer patient. I love that you mention teaching our loved ones, including our children, about these modalities! They are tools they can use for a life-time!

  3. Such an important and challenging issue, Angela. I thank you for sharing your recent experience as a patient with us so that we can really understand the true challenge that people go through with pain and their medications. And the resources! Wonderful… helping people cope with the pain in addition to the medications… I love the breathing tip and the meditation track. Awesome!!

  4. Angela,
    I appreciate your blog post. I work on a detox unit so I see first hand the devastating impact of people addicted to substances such as pain medication. I also recognize how essential it is to appropriately provide pain medication to individuals who have undergone surgery or have cancer.

    I have been part of an education committee to teach nurses the importance of proper pain management to patients with a history of addiction after surgery or a painful procedure. Usually they will require more medication d/t their tolerance. Education and communication are key. I was excited to hear about the ER in NY providing alternatives. Using and teaching patients about alternatives along with the use of pain medication if needed would create better outcomes and less risk for dependency and addiction.

    One of these alternatives that I don’t see much in hospitals or even outpatient clinics is teaching patients about eating anti-inflammatory foods to help decrease their pain and increase their healing process.

    Great article and conversation!

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