Meditation 'better than morphine' at easing pain
Meditation can be better than morphine at easing pain.
A study has found 80 minutes of meditation training can quickly and effectively quell pain - and do it better than some of the most powerful drugs.
For the study, 15 healthy people who had never meditated before attended four, 20-minute classes to learn a technique called focus attention.
Inner peace: Meditation reduced the amount of pain felt by a group of 15 people after just four 20-minute long sessions
The training showed them how to concentrate on their breathing and let go of distracting thoughts and emotions.
They also underwent a series of brain scans, as a heated probe was pressed against their leg, gradually raising the skin temperature to a painful 32C (120F).
Meditation greatly reduced the amount of pain they said they were in and its unpleasantness, the Journal of Neuroscience reports.
The scans taken after meditation training showed a calming of brain regions involved in creating the feeling of where and how intense a painful stimulus is.
And during meditation, this important pain-processing region appeared to be switched off completely.
The research, from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, also showed that meditation increased brain activity in areas thought to be key to coping with pain.
Researcher Dr Fadel Zeidan said: 'We found a big effect - about a 40 per cent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 per cent reduction in pain unpleasantness.
'Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain ratings by about 25 per cent.
'One of the reasons that meditation may have been so effective in blocking pain was that it did not work at just one place in the brain but instead reduced pain at multiple levels of processing.
'This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation.'
He added that the big results achieved through small amounts of training suggest that meditation has great potential for use in medicine.
'This study shows that meditation produces real effects in the brain and can provide an effective way for people to substantially reduce their pain without medications,' he said.
Other recent research has credited meditation with giving the brain a boost, with even a brief course strengthening the connections between different regions of the brain.
This, say the scientists, could make it easier for us to keep our emotions under control - or, in meditation speak, achieve inner peace.
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