If you want to make your life pain-free, go for mindfulness meditation. A new study has found that it reduces pain more effectively than placebo.
The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center research showed that the study participants who did mindfulness meditation reported greater pain relief than placebo. Significantly, brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation produced very different patterns of activity than those produced by placebo to reduce pain.
Lead investigator Fadel Zeidan said that while they thought that there would be some overlap in brain regions between meditation and placebo, the findings from this study provide novel and objective evidence that mindfulness meditation reduces pain in a unique fashion.
The study used a two-pronged approach -- pain ratings and brain imaging -- to determine whether mindfulness meditation is merely a placebo effect. Mindfulness meditation reduced pain by activating brain regions (orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) associated with the self-control of pain while the placebo cream lowered pain by reducing brain activity in pain-processing areas (secondary somatosensory cortex).
Another brain region, the thalamus, was deactivated during mindfulness meditation, but was activated during all other conditions. This brain region serves as a gateway that determines if sensory information is allowed to reach higher brain centres. By deactivating this area, mindfulness meditation may have caused signals about pain to simply fade away, Zeidan said.
Mindfulness meditation also was significantly better at reducing pain intensity and pain unpleasantness than the placebo meditation. The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.