Your Brain As A “Club Bouncer” of Pain—Using Mindfulness Meditation Instead of Pain Meds


We all know that the practice of meditation is a known way to “clear the mind,” become “more grounded” in the here and now, and “centered”—in other words, it’s a great way to handle a world increasingly cluttered by stimuli.

In addition, meditation establishes a stronger connection between mind and body. And while that connection is not completely understood, it is nonetheless a powerful source of healing energy that can make a significant difference in our overall well being.

New science backs up the theory that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain. A recent study published in Journal of Neuroscience found that within two groups, one of which received a placebo cream and the other asked to practice mindfulness meditation, the meditating group experienced greater pain relief.

Fadel Zeidan, PhD., assistant professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, expressed complete surprise at the results, but concluded that the study provides objective evidence that meditation has unique pain-reduction capabilities.

According to an article in Natural News,

During the study, the mindfulness meditation group reported an average of 27% less physical pain and 44% less emotional pain in response to the stimuli, while the placebo group reported 11% less physical pain and 13% less emotional pain. MRI scans also showed that meditation actually produced effects on the brain different from those produced by the placebo cream.”

Translation: the MRI scan indicates that the group practicing mindfulness meditation seemed to be using different regions of the brain than those using a topical cream.

Another recent article in Time elaborates:  

This group had increased activation in higher-order brain regions associated with attention control and enhanced cognitive control.”

The meditating group also experienced a deactivation of the thalamus—the part of the brain that acts as a kind of club bouncer that tells pain to stay outside the velvet rope.

All in all, it’s another step forward in our understanding of these powerful tools: mindfulness and meditation.

IMAGE: Signs of pain disappeared from MRI images of the brain when freshly trained novices meditated. Robert Coghill/Wake Forest University School of Medicine


Read all stories by Juniper Briggs

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