Meditation and Managing Chronic Pain
Research suggests that it’s possible to achieve significant results in pain regulation, not by increasing one’s cognitive efforts, but instead by turning off certain areas of the brain.
Using MRI scans, researchers were able to demonstrate that meditators have the ability to decrease their sensation of pain. By developing a training-related ability to disengage some of the higher-order brain processes, they could diminish their sensitivity to a painful heat stimuli.
In a controlled experiment with 13 Zen meditators, there was less activity measured, as compared to non-meditators, in those parts of the brain that are linked to cognitive processes, emotion, and memory – the regions that process and interpret stimuli, and then label and store it in our memory bank for future reference. Though still aware of their pain, the sensation wasn’t processed to the point where the interpretation and labeling of it as “painful,” occurred. Essentially, they were able to cut the process short, which provided a lower pain sensitivity (response).
By practicing meditation, we can enhance our body-mind connection and support our ability to manage pain, naturally.