The tyranny of chronic pain can touch all of us at any point in our lives. Whether from illness or accidents, the pain becomes such a part of our lives that we think it will never end and suffering will be eternal. It will affect every aspect of life; social events become unbearable, talking with friends becomes unendurable, nothing provides any satisfaction and we can end up isolating ourselves because we feel nobody can understand the agony we are going through.
Traditional pain relief from doctors, especially in Western countries, usually comes in the form of opioid medication such as morphine or the newer Oxycontin. However, in many cases these pills can lead to dangerous addictions and also lead to secondary conditions such as digestive problems. Further making things rather depressing is the fact that many of these dangerous prescription pain relief medications don’t do their job, meaning the sufferer still feels pain. At times the situation does feel hopeless.
However, a sufferer need not feel hopeless; chronic pain relief and effective pain relief, according to an article published in the Telegraph, a United Kingdom newspaper, is possible through the non-traditional route of meditation. In fact, the pain relief meditation method is so powerful that it appears to be more effective than most drugs designed to combat pain.
Researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, have found that only one hour of meditation training can diminish debilitating pain immediately by 50% and will also have a long-lasting pain-relief effect on the practitioner’s body. The meditation, using a mind-body connection and philosophy, appears to work on the areas of the brain that produce feelings of pain and also appears to boost activity in the brain’s coping areas.
Lead researcher Dr. Fadel Zeidan stated to the media: “This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation.”
The meditation method used in the study was called Focused Attention, where people are taught how to pay deep attention to breathing and eliminate distracting emotions and thoughts. 15 healthy volunteers who had never meditated nor attended any sort of relaxation therapy course were made to attend four 20-minute classes to learn and master the technique. Before and after the meditation lessons, the participants’ brain activity was monitored using arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI), which captures long brain processes better than standard MRI brain scans.
While the scans were taking place, researchers would place a heating device on the participants’ right leg; the device would reach 120o F, and was left there for five minutes, which most people will find painful.
The researchers were surprised to find that when these pain tests were conducted after a meditation session, the brain scans showed that every patient’s pain rating decreased; in some patients it decreased 11% and in others it decreased by as much as 93%. The scans furthermore showed that meditation dramatically decreased activity in the area of the brain that is responsible for creating the sensation of where and how harsh a pain-inducing stimulus is. Researchers unexpectedly found that while activity in this section of the brain was very high before meditation, after meditation it was undetectable in the scans.
Dr. Zeidan continued. “We found a big effect – about a 40 per cent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 per cent 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 per cent.”
“This study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications.”
Before embarking on any sort of pain management or pain relief plan, you should always talk to your medical doctor.