Sunday, April 10, 2011

Meditation Relieves Pain, New Study Shows

Image byTosaporn Boonyarangkul

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that meditation relieves pain. But that’s not all. It also indicates that—get this—the pain relieving properties of meditation may be stronger than that of morphine.

To find out whether or not meditation relieves pain, the researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center trained 15 volunteers in the practice of “focused attention,” or mindfulness meditation, in which the volunteers practiced clearing their minds of thoughts while focusing on their breathing. Before and after this training, the volunteers submitted to MRIs of their brains.

Then, according to the Los Angeles Times:

“Before and after the meditation training, the subjects were subjected to five minutes and 55 seconds of pain—relative pain, anyway. Researchers heated a small patch of skin on the subjects’ right legs to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the subjects used a 6-inch plastic sliding scale to report their level of discomfort.”

The result?

After meditation, the subjects reported a significant drop in pain intensity and unpleasantness—40 and 57 percent respectively. Moreover, the MRIs of their brains showed a virtual halt of activity in the pain centers of their brains. (By way of comparison, morphine typically reduces pain by a mere 25 percent).

But does this mean that you should forego pain medication for pain meditation the next time you experience severe pain? NO. This study, after all, was a small one composed of just 15 volunteers who were subjected to a mild amount of pain compared to, say, that of terminally ill cancer patients. This study does not prove beyond a shadow of doubt that meditation relieves pain for all people and under all pain conditions.

But still…this study adds to the growing body of evidence that shows that your mind does matter when it comes to pain intensity or cessation.

Do you believe that meditation relieves pain? Have you ever used mediation to relieve pain and did it work?

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