Facebook Pixel

Pain Relief Through Meditation Looks Promising

By HERWriter
Rate This
Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

If the idea of meditation has always sounded like a supremely dull way of wasting time, these findings may surprise you. Research from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has indicated that about an hour of meditation training can transform your pain experience.

Meditation may also reduce certain types of undesirable brain activation in the bargain. In fact, meditation was found to be more effective than morphine and other pain-relievers, by about 25 percent.

Participants in the study were taught meditation techniques in four classes, each of which was of 20 minutes duration. Their brain activity was monitored by arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI), before and after each training session.

After each meditation class, each participant's pain ratings were found to be reduced by anywhere from 11 to 93 percent.

Then there's the effect on the primary somatosensory cortex, a part of the brain which is involved in our perception of how painful a stimulus feels. The pre-class scans showed abundant activity in this area of the brain. In the post-class scans, no indication of pain-related activity was detected.

There are a few other areas in the brain which participate in the reduction of pain experience. The anterior cingulate cortex, the anterior insula and the orbito-frontal cortex, for instance, were all activated by the meditation exercises.

These regions shape the brain's experience of pain that is sent via nerve signals from the body. Meditation seems to be effective in part because it affects many areas of the brain that interpret the pain messages.

Researchers are encouraged by the fact that meditation training need not be complex or difficult to be effective in the relief of pain.

Funding for this study came from the Mind and Life Institute in Boulder, Colo., and from the Center for Biomolecular Imaging at Wake Forest Baptist. Findings were published in the April 6, 2011 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Other research from Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School has suggested that meditation's ability to turn down pain could be related to a brain wave called the alpha rhythm.

Participants attended eight weeks of a mindfulness meditation program. When tested and compared with a control group that didn't take the meditation program, these participants experienced greater and faster modulation of the alpha rhythm.

Brain cells make use of different frequencies or brain waves for different functions. The alpha rhythm is associated with cells that process sight, sound and touch in the cortex of the brain. It helps to tune out distractions and facilitates the transmission of information from the senses to various parts of the brain.

Participants in the eight week mindful meditation sessions seemed to have a greater ability to alter their alpha rhythm and their perception of pain.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health and from the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School funded the research. A Eurekalert! public release from April 21, 2011 announced that the report would appear in the journal Brain Research Bulletin.


Demystifying Meditation: Brain Imaging Illustrates How Meditation Reduces Pain

Meditation may help the brain 'turn down the volume' on distractions

Visit Jody's website and blog at http://www.ncubator.ca and http://ncubator.ca/blogger

Reviewed June 6, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a Comment2 Comments

Meditation is a good alternative in relieving the pain. One of the benefits of using the meditation for pain relief is that it can help keep people from having to take narcotics and other pain relieving drugs that may be harmful. When pain occurs in the body, the body usually responds with adrenaline. Learning to use meditation to relax, the body can help alleviate the pain. I used to manage my pain by relying on natural remedy instead of using painkillers. Before I started with the meditation, I tried a Yuen method. At first, I was very skeptical to try energy healing but when I saw the results I was eager to use it often to improve my health condition. This is called a Yuen method, a specialized qigong. Paul (YM practitioner) was able to identify the root causes of all the issues that lead me to develop physical pains. After he worked on me, I noticed immediate results. The physical issues that I have had almost completely gone just after a short session. This is an amazing experience! Here are some video resources with learning tips that demonstrate the benefits of energy medicine, http://www.chineseenergetics.com/Energy-Medicine/

June 7, 2011 - 7:21pm

This is fascinating; yet another reason for me to not want to take pain meds.

June 7, 2011 - 9:32am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.