Healthy Living

Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce Pain

Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce Pain

Key Takeaways

  • A new brain imaging study has shown that meditation, even a brief instruction, helps to reduce the intensity of pain.¬†

A new brain imaging study has shown that meditation, even a brief instruction, helps to reduce the intensity of pain. Most of the participants of the study reported to have a reduction in pain after four 20-minute sessions of mindfulness meditation instructions.

Mindful breathing

The study showed that, prior to learning the technique, there was intense brain activity when the individuals were exposed to heat. The activity in the brain decreased considerably when they were meditating. Researcher Fadel Zeidan, PhD, who is a postdoctoral fellow at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says that this study is the first of its kind to show the effect of a short period of meditation for pain management.

In this study, 18 young adults who did not have any experience with meditation were recruited. The participants went through four, 20-minute instructional sessions on focused attention, in which they were asked to pay close attention to the breathing patterns while disallowing  distracting thought patterns. The brain activity of the participants was measured before and after the instructional session using a special type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Robert C. Coghill, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest, feels that the study confirms meditation can have a real impact on intensity of pain. This was irrespective of the fact whether the participants had any formal training in meditation earlier. According to Coghill, meditation would be helpful in controlling the post-operative pain and other such acute pains. It is not clear whether brief instruction about the mindfulness meditation would be helpful in controlling chronic pain. Researcher Ziedan says that meditation reduce the emotional response to pain.

During the instructional phase each of the participants were asked to close their eyes and focus on the breathing pattern. They were also asked to get back to the focus each time the mind wandered. Wandering mind is normal during the first few minutes of meditation, especially in those who do not have any formal training. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to acknowledge the distractions that take away the focus, accept it and then try to bring back the attention to breathing.