If you are in significant physical pain, even a short period of meditation will help, a new study suggests.
According to researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, just 80 minutes of meditation had a stronger affect than morphine.
For the study, 15 healthy medical students were mildly burned in a laboratory, before and after attending four 20-minute sessions teaching them a meditation technique called “focused attention”. This helps participants to focus on their breathing, and let go of other thoughts and emotions.
On the second time they were burned, with a probe placed on their calves raising their skin temperature to 32 degrees Celsius, the participants were instructed to meditate. On average they rated the exact same pain as being 57 per cent less unpleasant and 40 per cent less intense than before.
In addition, a brain scan performed while they were subjected to pain showed that, while the subjects were meditating, the regions of the brain involved in processing pain appeared to be switched off completely, and the regions involved in reducing pain were more active.
The lead author of the study, Dr Fadel Zeidan, called the results “dramatic”, noting that that morphine and other pain-relieving drugs “typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 per cent.
“One of the reasons that meditation may have been so effective in blocking pain was that it did not work at just one place in the brain but instead reduced pain at multiple levels of processing.”
Previous studies have shown that long periods of meditation can affect pain control, but this was the first to show that even just over an hour of meditation training can have a dramatic effect. The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience on April 6, 2011.
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