Study Suggests Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce Pain

Young girl meditating outside on the grassMindfulness meditation may offer pain relief greater than a placebo, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Previous research suggests meditation offers numerous health benefits, including reducing depression and anxiety, managing sleep issues, lowering the risk of cancer and heart disease, addressing symptoms of asthma, and lowering blood pressure.

Mindfulness Meditation to Reduce Pain

To explore the pain alleviation effects of meditation, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recruited 75 healthy and pain-free participants. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of four groups. One group practiced mindfulness meditation, while a second engaged in a placebo form of meditation designed to promote relaxation. A third group received a placebo analgesic cream, and the control group underwent no interventions. The meditation groups each meditated for 20 minutes four days in a row.

To create pain, researchers used a thermal probe to elevate a small area of skin to 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit. This low-level burn can be painful for most people.

Researchers asked participants to rate the intensity of the pain, as well as their emotional response to the pain. They also scanned participants’ brains both before and after the study.

The mindfulness meditation group experienced the lowest pain, with pain intensity decreasing by 27% and emotional response to pain decreasing by 44%. The group that used a placebo cream saw a reduction in pain of 11% and a 13% reduction in their emotional response to the pain. The placebo meditation group saw a 9% decrease in pain and a 24% decrease in emotional response to the pain. Researchers attribute this reduction in emotional distress to the relaxing effects of slower breathing.

Brain scans revealed that mindfulness meditation activated the anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal regions of the brain. Previous research suggests these two brain regions are associated with self-control of pain. Placebo cream recipients had increased brain activity in the secondary somatosensory cortex, a region of the brain believed to play a role in pain processing. The thalamus, which plays a role in alertness and relaying sensory information to the brain, was deactivated during mindfulness meditation.

This result, researchers suggest, demonstrates that meditation may alter the way the brain functions in response to pain.

References:

  1. Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress. (2014, July 19). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858
  2. Mindfulness meditation reduces pain, study finds. (2015, November 15). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/302620.php
  3. Oaklander, M. (2015, November 12). Meditation reduces emotional pain by 44%: Study. Retrieved from http://time.com/4108442/mindfulness-meditation-pain-management/

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  • Rhett

    Rhett

    November 23rd, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    This could be extremely beneficial for someone who is adverse to taking a lot of pain medication or who would rather explore different and more holistic options for healing.

  • Phyllis

    Phyllis

    November 23rd, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    I know that this is true because it is something that I have been working on myself for a while. I would say though that we have to be careful not to say it too loud because when big brother pharmaceutical gets a hold of this information I am pretty sure that they will do whatever they can to tear that validity of the research down.

  • sharna

    sharna

    November 24th, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    the belief in this has been around in many small groups and communities for quite some time now
    but I think that society as a whole has just now started to recognize that alternative approaches to healing really can be done in a way that is favorable to one’s overall health and wellness.

  • Joey

    Joey

    November 25th, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    There is too much corroborative evidence available that tells us that this is real and that there is pain relief available that we have within ourselves. The problem is getting enough people to get on board with this line of thinking so it will stop being so much viewed as alternative or experimental and just start being looked at as another option that we have.

  • Nan

    Nan

    November 26th, 2015 at 6:36 AM

    If there were more providers within the medical community who would actually look at this as being a true medical option this could do wonders for those who experience chronic pain and undiagnosed conditions

  • Janice S.

    Janice S.

    November 26th, 2015 at 8:21 AM

    I had a phone session counselor through my husband’s work insurance last year. She called me 2 x a week with a talk therapist the other 2 days. This was just the way the plan did it. I had no say. I had ask for Phone/Talk Therapy and she said the other will help me with this “mindfulness/therapy” and I thought she was speaking another language. After a few difficult week’s on the way with this “yoga type instructor”, she did inform me that she was from the Military and it all made sense on how she spoke. She sent me several packets on the treatment and how it helped decrease the pain in people with Chronic severe pain as like myself 24/7 never relief with all the oral meds. I have tried and been the guinea pig for almost every med and nerve machine out their. To be honest, I never worked on it as hard as I should because of life and giving me the time and space to help myself. I LIKE TALK THERAPY WITH THE RIGHT PERSON. I HAD A MALE DR. YEARS AGO, NO INS. , CASH OR CHECK ONLY AND HE WAS ONE OF THE BEST I HAVE EVER KNOWN. I COULD NOT AFFORD HIM AND HE EVEN CUT HIS PRICE FOR ME. HE REALLY WAS A HUMANE DOCTOR. I WORKED IN THE FIELD BY THEIR SIDE SO YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND MY BLURRED FEELINGS ON MOST OF THIER PERSONA’S AND HOW THEY TREAT THEIR PATIENTS. I DID GET BURNED OUT AND WENT TO A HAPPY PLACE, DOING EVENT PLANNING. THIS MINDFULNESS

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