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Natural Awakenings

In Pain? Try Meditation: A Safe Alternative to Pain Meds

Jun 30, 2011 10:48AM

Scientists at England’s University of Manchester have confirmed how some people suffering from chronic pain might benefit from meditation-based therapies. They concluded that people that are more advanced in meditation practices (up to 35 years) are likely to anticipate and experience pain less than less-advanced meditators or non-meditators.

“Meditation trains the brain to be more present-focused, and therefore to spend less time anticipating future negative events,” comments Christopher Brown, Ph.D., who conducted the research. When testing the pain tolerance of study participants using a noninvasive laser, the researchers noted unusual activity during anticipation of pain in part of the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain known to be involved in controlling attention and thought processes when potential threats are perceived, but more study is needed.

Participants had a diverse range of experiences with various meditation practices, spanning from months to decades. All of them perform some form of mindfulness meditation—such as that which is the basis of the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for recurrent depression, because up to 50 percent of people with chronic pain experience depression.

“The importance of developing new treatments for chronic pain is clear,” says Brown. “Forty percent of people who suffer from chronic pain report inadequate management of their pain problem.”

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