Can Meditation Relieve Pain?

by Scott Morrice on 03/30/2012

Can meditation relieve pain, and is there any evidence to support a positive response? You may recall from my A Definition Of Mindfulness? post that I suggested mindfulness meditation is being used, effectively, to relieve pain.

And just in case you need it (and a lot of us do), apparently there is good empirical evidence that supports this idea.

As Michael Appolo writes in a post on his Blog, where he is discussing a study that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience on April 6, 2011:

Even very brief instruction in meditation appears to help people cope with pain, and a newly published brain imaging study may explain why.
After just four, 20-minute instructional sessions in mindfulness meditation, most participants in the small study experienced big reductions in pain intensity and unpleasantness when subjected to painful stimuli.

Michael writes again:

In the study, researchers mildly burned 15 men and women in a lab on two separate occasions, before and after the volunteers attended four 20-minute meditation training sessions over the course of four days. During the second go-round, when the participants were instructed to meditate, they rated the exact same pain stimulus — a 120-degree heat on their calves — as being 57 percent less unpleasant and 40 percent less intense, on average.

“That’s pretty dramatic,” says Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, N.C. The reduction in pain ratings was substantially greater than those seen in similar studies involving placebo pills,hypnosis, and even morphine and other painkilling drugs, he adds. Morphine itself decreases pain intensity by 25% on average.

I wrote in my It’s A Jungle Out There! post that when the material, theories, and modalities originating within the field of mind/body/spirit aren’t supported by empirical evidence, or at least credible historical anecdotal evidence, it opens the door to outrageous positions, and outlandish theories because if there is no way to prove the correctness of what you are saying, there is no need to worry about having to back it up. And this does this area of interest, which is otherwise extremely exciting and full of hope and possibility, an incredible disservice in my opinion.

But here you have it—empirical evidence! Embrace it!

Read Michael’s whole article here.

I’ll keep you posted.

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