Have you tried every available medication for your chronic pain and yet they are just giving you temporary relief from your suffering? There’s hope for pain sufferers as a new study has found that mindfulness meditation is more effective than pain pills.
Research into Meditation and Pain Relief
In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center investigated 75 healthy, pain-free individuals after they were exposed to painful heat with a 120-degree thermal probe. An MRI was used to scan their brains. Then, they were divided into four groups and given four days of meditation training.
For the group that underwent real meditation training, the participants listened to instructions on how to focus on the moment and let their thoughts and emotions flow without judgment while they sat with their eyes closed for 20 minutes.
After four days, the participants had their brains scanned again while undergoing the same heat treatment. But this time, they were instructed to use the techniques they learnt from the training.
Findings showed that the people in the mindfulness group showed the greatest pain reduction. According to the lead investigator, mindfulness meditation delivers stronger physical pain reductions than opioid morphine.
Meditation and Pain Relief
Researchers are quick to caution that the study was participated by health, pain-free subjects, so the findings cannot yet be applied to chronic pain sufferers.
However, the effect of meditation on the brain cannot be disputed. In imaging studies, mindfulness is shown to relieve the area associated with self-control of pain and, over time, these changes become permanent and restructures the brain, so that the pain suffered by patients is not as intense. Thus, it is safe to say that mindfulness meditation can be used as an adjunct to pain medication therapy.
How does mindfulness help you cope with pain?
Meditation promotes relaxation, which is an essential element in soothing the nervous system, which can become sensitised when pain continues for long periods. When you are relaxed, you strengthen your body’s pain modifiers, such as the “feel good hormones” called endorphins.
Mindfulness meditation also helps you accept what’s happening in the present moment, including pain. With the acceptance of pain comes your openness, both in mind and body. This results in better response to various pain treatments.
In the study discussed above, participants showed improvement to pain response after only four days of training. You too can easily get started on mindfulness meditation. Choose a space in your home or outside (perhaps your garden) where you can practice your meditation undisturbed for as short as 10 minutes or as long as 45 minutes each day.
But prior to starting, it is recommended that you talk to your primary health care provider about this new intervention that you are trying out. It is best to complement your usual pain relief medication with meditation.