A recent study found that individuals who are well-trained in the Zen meditation practice appear to be less sensitive to moderate pain.
Researchers studied individuals who were healthy and who were already experienced in meditation.
The longer the amount of time that study participants had been practicing meditation, the more the meditative state allowed them freedom from pain.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, identifies four qualities common among different forms of meditation:
- Placing oneself in a quiet environment
- Assuming a specifically prescribed, yet comfortable posture
- Focusing on an object, word, breath, etc. to promote relaxation and calmness
- Allowing thoughts and distractions to flow away
Researchers believed that the combination of relaxation and concentration achieved by those who meditate was what enabled them to get through the experiments without registering pain.
Previous studies have suggested that meditation techniques might allow the release of endorphins, chemicals in the body known to help relieve pain.
It seems clear that learning to relax, particularly in the face of pain or painful medical procedures, may be an effective tool for managing pain, good news for those who face chronic pain and are seeking non-drug alternatives.