Using meditation to reduce the pain of severe headaches (migraines, concussions)
On August 1, 2015 I started having a headache. Today on October 15th, I still have that same headache. It goes on all day, every day, and it always hurts in the same place: a spot on the top-right part of my head where I was hit in 2009, ending up with a concussion.
Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and steroids
Until recently I had been treating the headache by taking ibuprofen and tylenol, sometimes at the same time, alternating them every 3-4 hours. After a while my doctor became concerned that I was having “rebound” headaches, so she had me stop those and put me on a dose of steroids for five days, which sadly didn’t help.
Last Friday I (finally) had an MRI, and fortunately it showed everything was normal. The pain on the day of the MRI was pretty horrific, an 8 out of 10 on the scale they ask you to use, and that was with both ibuprofen and tylenol on board.
As I sat in the hospital on Friday I began meditating, and for the most part I haven’t stopped since then. There’s a lot of downtime while you’re waiting in the ER, and as I meditated I noticed that the meditation was helping with the pain, so I kept meditating, and kept meditating. Saturday was still a very painful day, and on Sunday evening and then again on Monday evening I still needed to take some ibuprofen, but then a really nice thing happened...
Monday evening was the last time I took ibuprofen. I had to white-knuckle it a little bit late on Tuesday, but when the pain started I immediately started meditating again until the pain went away. I won’t claim that I have “won” the head pain battle — I know that it can go from 1 to 8 in less than five minutes — but I am currently winning it.
I know a few different ways to meditate, and the style I’m using right now is closest to a “savasana” style meditation you’d use at the end of a yoga class. I don’t trying to “meditate the pain away,” but I do try to explore and relax the spot on my head that hurts so much. At first I did this constantly, and now just a few days later I only do it a few times a day.
Split brain pain
An interesting thing I’ve learned from the meditation is that the left side of my head is just fine. When I meditate on where the pain is, there’s no pain at all in the left side of my head. The pain is split just like the two hemispheres of the brain, with the left side 100% pain-free, and the right side varying from a 1 to an 8 on the 1-10 scale (though I haven’t had an 8 since some time on Tuesday).
I’m going to continue meditating to try to relieve the constant head pain, but if you have thought about meditating to relieve migraine headaches, or other forms of severe headaches, I thought it might help to share this story. As mentioned, the first 2-3 days were difficult and I had to stay at it, but for the last 2-3 days I’ve been able to work and do anything else I want without much pain. I still do have some pain, but by mentally putting my focus back on that area and relaxing it, I have reduced the pain by a huge amount, allowing me to get back on with my life.