The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) reports today that Zen meditation may help reduce sensitivity to pain.
Researchers in Montreal compared pain responses in people trained in meditation and those who are not.
In the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Joshua Grant, a doctoral student in physiology at the University of Montreal and his colleague Prof. Pierre Rainville looked at how or why meditation might influence pain perception.
Scientists recruited 13 Zen meditators with a minimum of 1,000 hours of practice to undergo a pain test. Their reactions were contrasted with 13 non-meditators.
The study involved applying a heated plate to the calves of subjects intermittently and measuring at which temperatures the subject reported pain. Zen meditators experienced an 18 per cent reduction in pain intensity, the researchers reported.
While meditating, it seems that meditators were able to minimize their pain partly by breathing more slowly: they took 12 breaths per minute versus an average of 15 breaths for non-meditators.
Perhaps breathing more slowly lessens pain by keeping the body relaxed, Grant conjectured. He also projects that if meditation changes the way someone experiences pain, then people might be able to take less pain medication. “While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators,” he said.
Also quoted in the article, Psychologist Ann Amsa teaches techniques such as visualization and breathing to assist people with chronic pain. She reported that meditation also works on the mind to lessen pain. “Meditators observe good and bad sensations and then accept and release them, so painful stimulation is felt less intensely,” she said.
Next, researchers plan to use MRI scans to learn how meditation affects subjects’ brain activity. What about you? Have you had success using meditation to handle pain? Share your comments below.