Blog Post Content

MRI Scans of Brain of Novice Meditator with Pain MRI images of the brain of a novice meditator show signs of pain nearly disappear. (source: Robert Coghill/Wake Forest University School of Medicine)

“You might not need extensive training [in meditation] to realize pain-relief benefits. Most people don’t have time to spend months in a monastery.”
Fadel Zeidan, neuroscientist

On the NPR Shots blog, Adam Cole highlights a study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center showing that even novice meditators are able to curb their pain after a few training sessions. Cole writes:

In the study, a small group of healthy medical students attended four 20-minute training sessions on “mindfulness meditation” — a technique adapted from a Tibetan Buddhist form of meditation called samatha.It’s all about acknowledging and letting go of distraction. …

So how did the researchers gauge the effect? They administered a very distracting bit of pain: A small, thermal stimulator heated to 120 degrees was applied to the back of each volunteer’s right calf. The subjects reported both the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain. If pain were music, intensity would be volume. Unpleasantness would have more of an emotional component, kind of like how much you love or hate a song.

After meditation training, the subjects reported a 40 percent decrease in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness. And it wasn’t just their perception of pain that changed. Brain activity changed too.

Be sure to read Cole’s article for the details.

(h/t stotheb, via almaswithinalmas)


Leave a Comment

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

18 Comments

I certainly don't consider myself a master meditator, but meditation was my main pain-coping technique during labor with my second child. Sure wish I'd had it the first time around. It made for a completely different experience.

As my teacher said, "You hear the marching band cross the bridge nearby, you don't have to get up and follow!"

The link to samatha meditation says it comes from the Thai tradition which is Theravadan not Tibetan Buddhism. I'm sure that there is a parallel in the Tibetan tradition but the article states that breath Meditation dosn't have the same effect. So it would be helpful to know more specifics about the practice taught to the beginners. Thanks

Sounds very much like the practice of centering prayer.

@Joe..it is nearly identical to centering prayer. I practice both on a daily basis several times a day.

Very interesting, though I would be curious about the details of the experimental design - including any bias of the investigators (one of the coauthors is a long time practitioner, and taught the mediators). Is there a problem with knowing who practiced meditation and who did not?

None of the subjects had ever practiced meditation prior to enrollment in the study and were not required to practice meditation outside of meditation training / experimentation sessions.

Thank You for sharing this.

I practice this technique on a regular basis. It is well-proven that it works wonders and is not all difficult!!!! I would encourage anyone with pain and, in particular, those with chronic pain to at least try and give this method of pain relief a try. You might be very surprised at how well it works!!!

I practice this technique on a regular basis, several times a day, for relief of severe chronic pain! I guarantee that given the chance it works very, very well. You will be so surprised if you just give it a chance.

Back Pain Treatment are really very beneficial for us if on time.To get fast relief from pain we have to do regular exercise.

Loved looking through your post on this great website many thanks for the content

Really great blog I'll definitely be coming back to have a look at it day-to-day very soon

As someone who has significant chronic pain in almost all parts of my body - external and internal - I wonder about the relatively minor pain of this heat applied to the calf. It is so discreet and is one kind of pain. Until you experience the full range of pain types and in many body regions you don't realize how diverse pain can be. I meditate. Not often enough but several times a week at least. Sometimes, my pain level does diminish significantly but it isn't a result I can depend on. I wonder if I were an "Olympic" level meditator if my pain would diminish significantly and reliably? Maybe in 8,000 more hours of meditation I will know.

I do meditation more than eat within one day. And I am glad that I still have a healthy body, mind and soul.

wonderful advice. Thank you very much for the intriguing talk. I like the points mentioned.

Very interesting web site. I simply got almost nothing to do thus I am simply killing time searching the internet and I feel as though I've got located some extremely useful web-site. Thank you

This is really informative Trent. I think living healthy, happy, and wealthy is very important. Many of us have lower back injuries that get us down and we do not know why it occurs. Regardless of the root of the problem, it is necessary to seek professional treatment from a pain management specialist. Back Pain New York City Specialists seek opportunities to serve you. I had back problems last week and I came across New York specialists for back pain and they were a huge help. Now my back is on its way to a great recovery. Thank You for this!