You may already have heard of some of the amazing benefits of meditation. Maybe you’re well aware that meditation can calm and focus the mind, train you to breathe more effectively and relieve your stress. However, did you know that meditation may help to relieve several types of pain?
It’s true. A growing body of exciting research has linked meditation to relieving pain, both physical and emotional. The ability of meditation to relieve pain is truly necessary in our modern world, as opioid addiction has become an epidemic and deaths from these drugs are on the rise. Natural and effective pain relief methods are sorely needed, and meditation can provide a lot of benefit.
The following are just a few of the many studies on meditation and pain relief, to give you an idea of the vast analgesic benefits of this ancient practice.
Meditation and chronic pain
A 2014 study published in the journal Pain Medicine tested the effects of mindfulness meditation on patients with nonspecific chronic pain. Approximately half of the 109 patients underwent a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, and the other half served as a control group. The study went on for 2.5 years.
Results showed that the patients that underwent mindfulness training reported feeling better in control of their pain, higher levels of pain acceptance, fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and feeling better psychologically. On these results, the study authors wrote:
“A standardized mindfulness program (MBSR) contributes positively to pain management and can exert clinically relevant effects on several important dimensions in patients with long-lasting chronic pain.”
Meditation and migraines
A 2014 study published in the journal Pain Management Nursing tested the effects of one single 20-minute guided meditation session on a group of 27 people who regularly experienced migraines. After the session, the participants reported that their emotional tension had decreased by 43 percent. Their pain was reduced by 33 percent. Based on these results, the study authors concluded:
“The data suggest that a single exposure to a brief meditative technique can significantly reduce pain and tension, as well as offer several clinical implications. It can be concluded that single exposure to a meditative technique can significantly reduce pain and tension.”
Meditation and pain perception
A big part of how we experience pain has to do with our perception of pain. A 2015 study published in Pain Medicine tested the relationship between mindfulness meditation and the perception of pain. The study was performed on 40 participants, who either underwent mindfulness training or were placed in a control group. The participants were exposed to tonic heat pain.
On their results, the study authors explained:
“A brief MM [mindfulness meditation] intervention appears to affect perception of experimental pain both by increasing pain threshold and accelerating modulation of response. Findings may help elucidate mechanisms of MM for chronic pain.”
Meditation and neck pain
One type of pain that is particularly common (especially for those of us who sit at a desk all day) is chronic neck pain. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Pain tested the effects of Jyoti Meditation training on a group of 89 patients with chronic neck pain. The test group meditated, while the control group was assigned exercise. After eight weeks, the patients who underwent the meditation training reported “significantly reduced pain” as well as a reduction in “pain-related bothersomeness.”
Meditation and biopsy pain
A 2016 study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology tested the effects of guided meditation (and a combination of guided meditation and music) on a group of 121 women who required breast biopsies. On the pain-relieving effects of meditation, and the combination of meditation and music, the study authors wrote:
“Listening to guided meditation significantly lowered biopsy pain during imaging-guided breast biopsy; meditation and music reduced patient anxiety and fatigue without compromising radiologist–patient communication. These simple, inexpensive interventions could improve women’s experiences during a core-needle breast biopsy.”
Meditation versus placebo
In 2015, researchers involved in a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience tested whether the pain-relieving effects of meditation had anything to do with a placebo effect. To determine this, 75 volunteers were assigned to either mindfulness meditation, sham mindfulness meditation, a placebo conditioning group or a book listening control.
Results showed that the real mindfulness meditation relieved the intensity of pain, and the “unpleasantness” of pain more than the sham meditation and the placebo conditioning. On these findings, the study authors wrote:
“This study is the first to demonstrate that mindfulness-related pain relief is mechanistically distinct from placebo analgesia. The elucidation of this distinction confirms the existence of multiple, cognitively driven, supraspinal mechanisms for pain modulation.”
As you can see, meditation offers multifaceted and effective pain-relieving benefits. If you are experiencing pain, it is highly worth it to give meditation a try… you may find you don’t need those dangerous prescription meds, after all.
— Meditation Daily