Meditation: a technique known for centuries to stop pain

Verified on 07/25/2022 by PasseportSanté

A break in the pain circuit

“Mindfulness meditation interrupts the communication between the brain areas involved in the sensation of pain and those that produce the sense of self.”, explains the study. Pain is, by definition, nothing more than nerve information that travels from the stimulus that receives the unpleasant sensation to the brain.

Mindfulness meditation allows you to deviate from this path, because “one of the central tenets of mindfulness is the principle that you are not your experiences”advances Fadel Zeidan, the director of the study.

Meditating allows us to feel our thoughts and feelings, without connecting them to our sense of self. A somewhat abstract concept that has led researchers to study this principle.

40 people studied

In this study, published July 7 in the scientific journal BREAD40 people were divided into 2 groups of 20. Before that, they had all received the same experience: painful heat was projected onto their leg, while their brain activity was scanned.

Subsequently, one of the 2 groups took mindfulness meditation classes. The other part of the subjects had the opportunity to read an audio book, without meditating. The 40 people have, on the last day of the experiment, been brought to receive a new heat on the leg. The “meditation group” was asked to meditate during the painful heat experience.

“Researchers found that participants who actively meditated reported a 32% reduction in pain intensity and a 33% reduction in pain unpleasantness.”

The study director also welcomes this observation: being a beginner in terms of meditation also allowed to observe these satisfactory results.

This pain relief is characterized by a difference in cerebral perception. In the “meditation group”, the thalamus of the brain, responsible for the input of sensory information, was less synchronized with all the regions of the brain involved in the “relaxation from the outside world” that meditation allows.

Among these is the precuneus, an area involved in the characteristics of self-awareness and which is one of the first areas to switch off during a fainting. The more these areas were desynchronized, the less the subject felt the pain.

Towards a treatment for chronic pain

We now know that mindfulness meditation can reduce the sensations of pain. This research could revolutionize the daily lives of people suffering from chronic pain.

If it is possible to manage temporal pain as the subjects of the experiment do, the treatment of chronic pain is a priority for scientists.

“For many chronic pain sufferers, what often most affects their quality of life is not the pain itself, but the mental suffering and frustration that accompanies it.”says the director of the study.

Fadel Zeidan hopes that this technique, which can be done anywhere, without equipment and without major constraints, can be integrated into treatment procedures. Moreover, this technique is free.

Be careful all the same, because if the pain is felt less significantly, the body is still disturbed and undergoes the full force of the stimulus. The study subjects felt less heat pain, but their legs were no less burned than those of control patients.

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Meditation: a technique known for centuries to stop pain

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