Study on Meditation Finds Significant Impact on Perception of Pain

People may often seek to avoid or lessen their feelings of pain, but it’s not always clear how to go about working through this difficult if universal part of life. Some people may seek relief in personal habits or addictions that prove ultimately unhealthy, while others may feel trapped or doomed by chronic pain issues that seem to lack medical solutions. Meditation has been reported by many as having pain-reducing properties, though academic studies of the process involved have long been lacking. Carried out at the University of Manchester in the UK, a study aimed precisely at this inquiry recently suggested that meditation’s ability to ease the perception of pain is related to an associated decrease in the brain’s anticipation of pain itself.

The study involved a number of people experienced in meditation techniques to various degrees, all of whom were familiar with mindfulness meditation, a key concept in some types of modern therapy that include meditation practices. Control participants were not experienced in meditation. The researchers administered pain to participants via a laser device, and monitored brain activity during the experiment. They found that those participants who had the longest experience with meditation were less affected by the laser pain, an occurrence accompanied by different activity within the brain as compared to other participants. This different activity involved a decreased anticipation of pain in the brain, along with an increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex, which suggests that the long-term meditators may have had better control over their focus and attention.

Noting that meditation often encourages experiencing life in the present moment, the researchers suggest that meditation may lower the amount of anticipation of pain as participants pay less attention to expected future negative events. As a considerable number of people who suffer from chronic pain report lacking meaningful pain management programs, the study’s results will likely have a major impact on the potential well-being of clients across a broad spectrum of medical and psychological concerns.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • vern burgess

    vern burgess

    June 4th, 2010 at 10:12 AM

    wow!meditation has proven to be beneficial in just so many things.and I can say this because I have practiced breathing techniques to build up my resistance levels and it really works!and now to know that it can also aid in the perception of pain,its just awesome.

  • Daniel N.B

    Daniel N.B

    June 4th, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    Although it is quite easy to know and believe that all that we see and how we perceive it is all in our mind,it is amazing how even something like pain can actually be perceived differently by following a different method.This can be a great way to relieve pain and help a lot of people.

  • Ben P

    Ben P

    June 5th, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    Learning the right steps to take to become better at refocusing and meditating has freed me from pain in my body that had plagued me for years. I am so thankful to have made this discovery and to have become more skilled at the practice.

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