Being in pain sucks. And while there are all different types of pain from emotional to physical, physical discomfort is most problematic because it can overshadow you entire life and for some, lead to drug dependence and addiction. The good news is that meditation has been shown to help relieve physical pain, not necessarily by taking it away. Rather, meditation benefits people by helping to change their relationship to it.
Jody Smith, in this latest EmpowHer post, cites a recent Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center study showing that an hour of meditation training can drastically transform your experience of pain. According to Smith, for some participants, meditation was found to be more effective than morphine.
After each meditation class, each participant’s pain ratings were found to be reduced by anywhere from 11 to 93 percent.
Then there’s the effect on the primary somatosensory cortex, a part of the brain which is involved in our perception of how painful a stimulus feels. The pre-class scans showed abundant activity in this area of the brain. In the post-class scans, no indication of pain-related activity was detected.
There are a few other areas in the brain which participate in the reduction of pain experience. The anterior cingulate cortex, the anterior insula and the orbito-frontal cortex, for instance, were all activated by the meditation exercises.
These regions shape the brain’s experience of pain that is sent via nerve signals from the body. Meditation seems to be effective in part because it affects many areas of the brain that interpret the pain messages.
Researchers are encouraged by the fact that meditation training need not be complex or difficult to be effective in the relief of pain.
Read more on how meditation is being used for effective pain management here.