Recently my daughter slammed her hand in the door and it was very painful for her. I had done a similar thing many years ago and initially it was a very painful experience for about maybe ten seconds. I started to breathe slowly and deeply and the pain went away quickly. There still remained a slight, dull ache for a while but overall the pain was gone. I’m sure my daughter and I aren’t unique in having painful experiences to us.
Many of my listeners or readers may have some form of disability that causes them some type of pain; whether it be intermittently or constant. It may be you or it may be someone you know that experiences pain and is struggling with it day to day. This would be good information to share with them because pain is very challenging to live with and having any natural, healthy, way of dealing with it instead of prescription medication can be very helpful.
Today we are going to look at a study that was published in the April 6, 2011 Journal of Neuroscience. They had 15 healthy volunteers who had never meditated before. These volunteers were taught meditation over four 20-minute classes. What the researchers did was take scans of the brain with an ASL MRI (Arterial Spin Labeling Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or for most of us, a “brain scan.” The next part was a little intense, but remember these people were volunteers. They took a small area of skin on their legs and they heated up their skin to 120°F with this little device. The researchers’ goal was to induce pain, and I’m assuming they accomplished this since 120°F is quite hot. First they heated the area up for 5 minutes and monitored the volunteers’ brains; then the researchers heated the volunteers legs again, only this time while the volunteers were meditating. What they found was that there was a difference in pain levels and pain level perceptions between the time the volunteers were meditating and the time they were not. The participants themselves said that the pain intensity decreased during the meditation from 11% to 93%. Overall, that means that there was about a 40% reduction in pain intensity and a 57% reduction in pain unpleasantness. Meditation produced a reduction in pain that was an even greater reduction in pain than someone taking a narcotic pain medication, such as morphine, which typically reduces pain by about 25%. These numbers are incredible. Because self-reports are often not as trustworthy on a scientific level, while the researchers had the participants hooked up to the brain scans they viewed the volunteers’ brain activity. What they found was that meditation reduced activity in the primary somatosensory cortex, which is an area of the brain that’s involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful experience really is. The scans taken before the meditation occurred, showed that this same area activity was very high. But when these volunteers were meditating and the pain was being induced there was a significant drop of brain activity in the somatosensory cortex; the researchers couldn’t even find any activity in this area of the brain!
So what does this mean to you and me? Clearly, this shows that practicing meditation when we are suffering and in pain is a great alternative to medication. I believe this is the third study I’ve covered that deals with meditation and the reduction of pain. Because there is so much research on how meditation helps with eliminating or making pain less intense, if we in any way struggle with pain, why don’t we meditate? The proof is in the pudding; the research has been done. Next time you get a headache, next time you hurt, or if you’re unfortunately suffering right now with chronic pain let’s try to handle the pain with meditation.
You may ask, “Dr. Puff, what’s wrong with taking medication if it works to relieve my pain?” and my answer is quite simple. I’ve dealt with many people in my practice that have had to take pain medication; many have become addicted to the medication. Addiction to pain medication is a very common problem with people who have to use medication regularly to deal with pain and it’s a very unpleasant thing when they become addicted. This addiction can have serious effects on your life, your personality, your family, your friends, and often sends us down a path that we do not want to go on. Not to mention, many of these medications can also have side effects on the body and its organs; which is why most doctors regularly run medical and blood tests on patients who are on these medications regularly. So if we meditate, what we can do is help with our pain and perhaps even alleviate the need for pain medications.
I know that I have a very high tolerance for pain naturally, but I also feel that this is, in part, because of my many years of practicing meditation every morning and every night. Join me on this journey of meditation to take on the challenge of pain in your life; whether it be small or large, chronic or intermittent. Living with pain is challenging at best. It is hard to live with and if we have the tools to turn to that can help us alleviate the pain we are in, without the use of medications, then why not utilize it? You can join me on my website for podcasts and guided meditations, meditation retreats, or pick up one of my books. No matter what your choice is, make the choice to get rid of pain, naturally and safely with a simple technique that relaxes you as your pain fades away; meditation.
– Dr. Robert Puff
Dr. Robert Puff, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, international speaker, and meditation expert who has been counseling individuals, families, nonprofits, and businesses for over twenty years. A contributing writer to Psychology Today, he has authored numerous books and creates a weekly podcast on happiness at http://www.HappinessPodcast.org He also creates a weekly podcast on meditation,http://www.MeditationForHealthPodcast.com and a weekly podcast on spiritual enlightenment, http://www.EnlightenmentPodcast.com
His retreat schedules can be found at http://www.HolisticRetreats.tv You also might find his blog useful at http://www.Meditation-Enlightenment.com
If you are interested in having Dr. Puff speak to your organization or company, you can learn more about his speaking services at http://www.SuccessBeyondYourImagination.com