5 Minute Body Scan for Pain Management
Do you think you can get rid of the pain with just your brain? Quite a few people answer with a hearty yes. So let’s jump in because science seems to be in agreement.
The Science, Real Quick
Pain is a learned response. In the brain, neural pathways form in response to chronic symptoms. Over time, those negative responses are easier to activate and trigger the brain to release the learned pain response.
Basically? Because the brain physically changes as it learns, when it attempts to protect you from "discomfort", sometimes it overreacts, and those responses only cement as time goes on. It eventually reaches the point that the overreaction happens even with slight discomfort that isn’t a true physical symptom. Your mind and body are so intimately interconnected. It’s to the point where emotional stress can very well be the reason for your sore jaw, chest pain, or achy joints.
What Exactly is a Body Scan?
With practice, you can train your brain to react to symptoms differently, so instead of triggering a pain response, it releases the body's natural painkillers. That’s the goal of a body scan: to start the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine, serotonin, or even oxytocin.
Remember when we mentioned how your emotional state can cause physical pain? Well, the body scan meditation for pain management allows you to turn inwards and change things up! Essentially, it's a meditation in which you use your breath to guide your inner eye in a scan to assess how you're feeling and what you need. As you work your way through, you’ll be looking to identify sensations like:
During the scan, ask yourself questions like:
- How do I feel?
- What do I feel?
- What can I do?
- How can I release this tension?
These questions, the quiet atmosphere, and your concentration on intimately assessing your body help you connect to emotions that may be triggering physical pain responses.
Try This 5-Minute Body Scan for Pain Management ASAP!
Mindfulness practices can be overwhelming when our brains are so used to multi-tasking. Personally, we believe there are a couple of best practices you can try as you introduce a bit of mindfulness to each day:
- keep the time commitment small
- take a virtual class
- listen to a guided meditation
- find a themed mindfulness practice that speaks to you
Now we will say, or rather, encourage you, to lengthen the duration of your practice over time. A longer period allows the mind, emotions, and physical body to work more intimately with each other. The more you put in, the more you receive.
For the next five minutes, you will breathe into the tension. Push your breath and inner eye into every crevice of your body. Sweeping through to places often overlooked and then offering yourself compassion.
The Feet (30 Seconds)
Begin with your toes. Are they sore? Are they tight? Can you breathe deep and metaphorically push oxygen into the very tips of your longest toe? Move up to your ankles. Is there any discomfort there, tiredness, or stiffness? What emotions do you feel right now as you take time to focus? Maybe you have an old injury that’s frustrating to think about. Acknowledge that frustration, and breath new life into the feet that carry you through life.
The Legs (30 seconds)
Leaving your feet to move to your legs, the calves, knees, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Seek your pulse. Where is it strongest there? Do you feel relaxed? If not, why? Identify any pain and the thoughts that pop up as you hover there. Breathe deep and push oxygen into the places you feel need it.
The Hips and Pelvis (30 Seconds)
We want you to take a moment to check in with this space, so small compared to the rest, but so important. For women, this space houses your womb, and sensuality, and creates life and art. How does it feel? Are you finding yourself frustrated hovering here but don’t know why? Don’t think too hard. Recognize the discomfort (or comforting warmth) you draw from this space. No feeling is invalid, no desire is wrong. Find your pulse, breathe deeply, and push your muscles to expand, stretching into deep relaxation. Allow your hips to become your grounding force. Relax them. Sink into your body and allow it to support you.
The Torso (90 Seconds)
This is space is vast, your gut is here. Use your inner eye and breathe deep, expand your lungs, fill them up completely and empty them completely. Gulp in yet more air and then push it through to your stomach. Identify the current state of your abdomen. Is it sore from a grueling workout? Or is it bloated from not-so-great diet habits? Do you feel healthy? Does that question trigger any emotional responses? Acknowledge and release. Breathe again. Does your chest expand easily or feel a little stiff? Shallow breathing is horrible for those with anxiety. Tune in to your heartbeat. Does your heart feel strong and healthy or erratic and troubled? Why? What thoughts lie here, what can you do to unburden the heart?
The Breasts (60 seconds)
October is breast cancer awareness month. While the traditional body scan may not ask you to use your hands, we think this is an acceptable exception. There are three medical methods to conduct your breast self-exam. You’ll want to use the same method every month. However, feel free to experiment until you find a way that works!
Outside of the self-exam, we encourage you to add a body scan element to the self-exam. You can breathe into the fatty tissues. Are there clogged milk ducts, or menstrual-inflamed tissue? Do you hold any strong feelings in this area? Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding may feel strong maternal energy from this area. Acknowledge those thoughts/feelings/physical manifestations and with a quiet breath, move on.
Shoulders and Up (60 seconds)
Ideally, you’ll spend more than a minute here, and really everywhere else but we promised a 5-minute body scan for pain management so for now we want to encourage you to relax your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and notice what emotions that trigger. Do you feel a sense of urgency? Are there waiting tasks gnawing at your mind as you continue this last bit of your scan? Find the heartbeat in your throat, and sweep a gentle eye over the muscles that work hard to support your head. Trace an imaginary finger around your earlobe, through your temples, and breathe into your third eye. Do you feel fatigued mentally or physically? What can you do to help with these symptoms? What do you think is causing this physical discomfort? Watch your answer float past. Release. Feeling your hips and shoulders grounding you, allow your arms, hands, and neck to go limp.
Finishing Up Your 5 Minute Body Scan for Pain Management
Breathe through the tension, release it, and slowly open your eyes, coming back to your surroundings. Great job. This was a quick body scan introduction, but there is no actual time limit. Spend as much time as you need in whatever area needs the most in the next session.
ProTip: Journaling after your session is also a great way to “debrief” and talk about what lingered with you after the body scan mediation. You can opt to do the body scan when you first wake up, after which you can whip up a protein-packed smoothie to fuel your body for the day!
Our Nourish Kit allows you to taste two of our vegan, plant-based protein powders. If you’re a fan of frappuccinos then we recommend our Carmel Frappe flavored protein that you can add espresso/cold brew to for a nutritious take on a normally calorie-ladened specialty coffee drink.