Meditation ‘better than morphine’
Daily meditation may be more effective at tackling pain than taking morphine, claims a new study. For some time now, we have been told that mindfulness can ease stress levels and reduce anxiety, but researchers are now suggesting that just a few minutes of meditation each day could prove better pain relief than powerful drug medication. During a study conducted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, 75 people who were considered healthy and free from pain were put into groups. These groups consisted of mindfulness meditation, placebo or 'sham' meditation, a placebo cream of petroleum jelly and a control group who had nothing – during the research their responses to pain were tested.
Each person had to undergo several brain scans as a heat probe was pushed against their skin until it reached 49 ºC – which would cause pain to an individual – and they were then asked to rate the pain in terms of a physical sensation as well as their emotional response.
The study showed that those individuals who had been taught to use relaxation and breathing techniques to cope with the pain had calmer brain scans. These people reported a 27 per cent reduction in pain intensity and 44 per cent less emotional pain, reports the Journal of Neuroscience.
The group who were given the placebo cream saw an 11 per cent reduction in pain sensation and 13 per cent for the emotional aspect.
Lead researcher Dr Fadel Zeidan believes these findings prove that mindfulness meditation can produce different patterns of brain activity.
“This study is the first to show that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically distinct and produces pain relief above and beyond the analgesic effects seen with either placebo cream or sham meditation,” he said. “Based on our findings, we believe that as little as four 20-minute daily sessions of mindfulness meditation could enhance pain treatment in a clinical setting.
“However, given that the present study examined healthy, pain-free volunteers, we cannot generalise our findings to chronic pain patients at this time.”
Previous research has shown that opioid morphine reduces physical pain by 22 per cent.