Treating Pain With Meditation
I’ve dabbled in mindfulness meditation as a pain reduction strategy for a few years. A study released in April, which showed significant reduction in pain intensity and “unpleasantness” with meditation, spurred me to undertake a regular practice.
“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,” said 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.” [emphasis mine]
I checked meditation CDs out of the library and found podcasts of guided meditations as well as talks given at meditation centers. I listen to an hour or two of talks each day and try to spend at least 30 minutes in active meditation. I’d say I the most relief I’ve experienced is about a 1 percent reduction in pain intensity and unpleasantness.
In the study, the pain was induced by a device heating a portion of the participants’ skin to 120 degrees. I have to wonder if the results only apply to acute, not chronic, pain.
I wish my results were better. Not just for the obvious reasons, but also to provide general support to the practice of meditation. Though it doesn’t directly improve my pain, I do feel calmer overall. I enjoy the practice and will continue with it.
Have you had success controlling pain through meditation, mindfulness, or otherwise?
Recommended guided meditation CDs:
- Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief by Jon Kabat-Zinn (also available as MP3): A secular (not “new age” or spiritual) meditation from the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at U Mass.
- Guided Meditations for Self-Healing by Jack Kornfield (also available as MP3): Though not over-the-top, this is a little more “new age” and spiritual. Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk and has a PhD in clinical psychology; his approach is a blend of Eastern and Western philosophies.