While this particular study may be new, its main conclusion is centuries old. Not only in eastern spiritual beliefs, but also in mind/body research a few decades ago, the ability of meditation to greatly reduce chronic pain has been widely confirmed.
“Only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation,” according to Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., lead author of the study and post-doctoral research fellow at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We found a big effect ~ about a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 percent.”
For the study, 15 healthy volunteers who had never meditated attended four, 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique known as focused attention, a form of mindfulness meditation where people attend to the breath and let go of distracting thoughts.
Both before and after meditation training, study participants’ brain activity was examined as a pain-inducing heat device was placed on the participants’ right legs. Scans taken after meditation training showed that every participant’s pain ratings were reduced, with decreases ranging from 11 to 93 percent, Zeidan said.
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