If you reach for a painkiller every time you feel a headache coming on, or any kind of over-the-counter drug for muscle or other pain, stop for a moment and focus on your breath.
This is what researchers at a Canadian university asked subjects to do in a study into the effects of meditation on pain. They wanted to investigate the perception of pain and the potential analgesic effects of mindful states in experienced meditators, and whether they perceived pain differently to non-meditators.
Researchers at the Université de Montréal recruited experienced meditators, who had more than 1,000 hours of meditation experience, and non-meditators to take part in the study.
Meditators Had Lower Sensitivity to Pain
When an external heat source was applied to the lower legs of the group, the research team noticed a dramatic difference in how the two groups reacted to pain – the meditators had much lower pain sensitivity compared to non-meditators.
Slower Breathing the Key
What the team noticed in particular was that the pain thresholds of the meditators were higher than non-meditators and that the meditators further reduced their pain through slower breathing. And if you have ever meditated, you will know that while you focus on the breath, it tends to become slow and calm.
Considerable research has been carried out into mindfulness and meditation but much of it relates to the emotional aspects of pain. This study shows that indeed meditation can be useful in dealing with the actual physical sensations associated with pain.
Not Experienced? Even a Short Meditation Course Can Help
But what if you want to control pain without resorting to painkillers but don’t have 1,000 hours of practice under your belt?
Another study showed that even a little training in how to meditate can go a long way. Even just three training sessions of 20 minutes per day was enough decrease participants’ sensitivity to pain in a study carried out at the University of North Carolina.
Meditation seems to reduce anxiety related to experiencing pain and the enhances the ability to focus on the present moment.
And the present moment is all there is.
Find a meditation teacher in your local area.
Topic: Meditation, Health Research