In chronic pain? Swap medication for meditation!

Published: June 9, 2017
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PHOTO:FILE

PHOTO:FILE

Meditation is just as effective as painkillers in alleviating discomfort in the human body, a new study has found.

Just about 10 minutes of the trendy Buddhist practice could be used as an alternative to paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin, reported Daily Mail. Taking up the practice, which has existed for centuries, improves a person’s pain threshold, a small trial showed.

The findings bolster evidence that suggests mindfulness, which helps to calm the mind, does help in boosting the power of the brain. Meanwhile, it also adds to the growing suggestion that painkillers are largely ineffective and the discomfort is just in the mind.

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How was the study carried out?

Researchers at Leeds Beckett University used a group of 24 healthy university-aged students for the study. The students were then randomly split into either a control or a meditation group.

All the volunteers experienced pain through a cold-pressor task: in the form of putting their hands in warm water before removing it when they could no longer bare the pain. They then either sat quietly for ten minutes or meditated for the same time before repeating the same experiment.

Five groups of data were then collected; anxiety towards pain, pain threshold, pain tolerance, pain intensity and pain unpleasantness.

What did they find? 

As it turned out, there was no difference in the pain reported by participants for the initial cold-pressor task, the study showed. But for the second, those in the meditation group reported a significant increase in their pain threshold and tolerance.

“While further research is needed to explore this in a more clinical setting on chronic pain patients, these results do show that a brief mindfulness meditation intervention can be of benefit in pain relief,” Dr Osama Tashani, who was involved in the study, said. “The ease of application and cost effectiveness of the mindfulness meditation may also make it a viable addition to the arsenal of therapies for pain management.”

He further added, “The mindfulness mediation was led by a researcher who was a novice; so in theory, clinicians could administer this with little training needed. It’s based on traditional Buddhist teachings which focus your attention and awareness on your breathing.”

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Previous findings 

The study comes about a year after researchers found that meditation is more effective than medication at easing chronic lower back pain. The Group Health Research Institute study noted that the technique of quietening the mind could be used by some to help alleviate pain.

Training the brain to respond differently to pain signals may be an effective pain relief tool, the authors said. The new findings also comes after leading doctors in the US warned that back pain should only be treated with painkillers as a last resort.

In a review of the evidence, the American College of Physicians said pills should only be used after physical therapies had failed.

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