Meditation Can Provide Greater Pain Relief Than Powerful Medication
Practicing meditation can ease pain better than powerful drugs such as morphine, according to researchers from North Carolina and Wisconsin. Findings showed that just 80 minutes of meditation training could provide fast and effective pain relief. The details of the new research were recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Meditation involves a cessation of the thought process. It can be described as a state of consciousness in which the mind is free of scattered thoughts and various patterns, providing for a heightened awareness. The type of meditation used in the study is known as mindfulness meditation, that begins with concentrating on ones breathing, and learning how to observe what’s going on in one’s mind and body without judging.
In the study that was performed in a lab setting, the researchers used a heated probe that was pressed against one leg of fifteen male and female participants both before and after providing meditation training. The probe gradually raised the skin temperature to a painful 32C (120F). In addition, brain scans were taken during the procedure.
After having attended four 20-minute meditation training sessions over the course of four days, the participants meditated during the second application of the hot probe and rated the pain experienced as being 57 percent less unpleasant and 40 percent less intense, on average.
Lead study author Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, “That’s pretty dramatic.” He went on to note that the reduction in pain ratings were significantly greater than ratings in similar studies that involved morphine as well as other painkilling drugs that typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent.
Further findings revealed that the scans taken after meditation training showed a calming of brain regions involved in creating the sense of feeling where a painful stimulus is located, and how intense the feeling is. Moreover, during meditation, this region of the brain, was apparently completely switched off. In addition, the brain region associated with sensing heat, cold and pain, was also affected. Zeidan says that the findings suggest that “meditation reduces pain by reducing the actual sensation.”
In conclusion, Zeiden acknowledged, “This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation.” He went on to explain, “This study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications.”