A technique known for centuries to stop pain

Verified on 07/20/2022 by PasseportSanté

Mindfulness meditation is growing in popularity, but it’s not new. It has been used by humans for centuries, first among Buddhists before becoming more popular in the West.

There are many virtues: anti-stress, stimulating the immune system… Recently, scientists from theUniversity of San Diego in California have investigated the connection between this meditation technique and the feeling of pain.

A break in the pain cycle

“Mindfulness meditation disrupts communication between the brain areas involved in the sensation of pain and those that generate the sense of self.”, explains the study. Pain, by definition, is nothing more than nerve information traveling to the brain from the stimulus that sustains the unpleasant sensation.

Mindfulness meditation allows you to deviate from this path because “One of the central tenets of mindfulness is the principle that you are not your experiences”introduces Fadel Zeidan, the leader of the study.

Meditating allows us to feel our thoughts and feelings without connecting them to our sense of self. A somewhat abstract concept that has prompted researchers to investigate this principle.

40 people studied

In this study, published July 7 in the scientific journal LOAF40 people were divided into 2 groups of 20 people each. Previously, they all had the same experience: painful heat was projected onto her leg while her brain activity was scanned.

Subsequently, one of the two groups took part in mindfulness meditation classes. The other part of the subjects had the opportunity to read an audio book without meditating. The 40 people were brought on the last day of the experiment to receive a new heat on the leg. The “meditation group” was asked to meditate during the painful heat experience.

“Researchers found that participants who actively meditated reported a 32 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 33 percent reduction in pain discomfort.”

The study director also welcomes this observation: As a beginner in the matter of meditation, one could also observe these satisfactory results.

This pain relief is characterized by differential cerebral perception. In the “meditation group,” the brain’s thalamus, which is responsible for inputting sensory information, was less synchronized with all regions of the brain involved in the “relaxation from the outside world” that meditation enables.

The latter includes the precuneus, an area involved in the traits of self-awareness and which is one of the first areas to shut down during fainting. The more these areas became desynchronized, the less the subject felt the pain.

Towards a treatment for chronic pain

We now know that mindfulness meditation can reduce pain sensations. This research could revolutionize the daily lives of people with chronic pain.

If it is possible to cope with temporal pain like the subjects, then treating chronic pain is a priority for scientists.

“For many people with chronic pain, what often impacts their quality of life most is not the pain itself, but the psychological suffering and frustration that comes with it.”says the study director.

Fadel Zeidan hopes that this technique, which can be performed anywhere, without equipment and without major restrictions, can be integrated into treatment workflows. In addition, this technique is free.

Be careful though, because if the pain is felt less intensely, the body is still disturbed and experiencing the full brunt of the stimulus. Study participants experienced less heat pain, but their legs were no less burned than controls.

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