One of my meditation students, Janette, wrote saying that doing a body scan meditation had helped her with pain:
I have tried the body scan twice and love it ! I suffer a lot with arthritic pain and felt I was floating above all this during the scan. Really felt the breath flowing through the body and then there was only the breath and I was absolutely pain free and so at peace.
Sometimes when we have pain we focus on it in a rather “obsessed” way, so that it fills the whole of our experience. I suspect that what’s happening in your Janette’s is that she’s experiencing all the things that are “not pain” so that her pain becomes just one part of her experience. Experience becomes a large “container” which includes the pain as just one of many sensations.
Having connected with the larger space of experience, we can also turn back and gently approach your pain with kindness and curiosity. There’s a danger that we try to “escape” pain by “fleeing” into the non-pain space around it (i.e. paying attention to everything but the pain). And that’s not entirely mindful, because we’re excluding something that’s important (pain is important). So, ideally we allow the pain to be part of our experience. We can breathe with it. We can offer it our love (it needs love, as we all do when we’re hurting). We can even look deeply into it to see what the various components of this pain are, noticing the coming and going of various experiences of pulsing, throbbing, heat, tingling, stabbing, pressure, etc. And sometimes when we do this we may even find, for a time, that our pain has dissolved.
It all becomes less scary when we turn toward our pain, and so there’s less of a need to flee it. We also find that we tense up less, and so our pain is reduced. We learn to fear our pain less, and our pain, in a way, learns to fear us less.