Thursday, 03 December 2015 00:00

Mindfulness meditation proven to beat placebos for pain relief

Scientists have found evidence that using mindfulness meditation produces better pain-relieving practice than taking placebos.  This form of meditation is an old Buddhist technique that practices the art of being aware from one moment to the next, of one’s individual conscious experience from a first-person perception. 

Placebo’s are fake medication often used to prove or disprove that someone’s pain has no root physiological cause, but rather, is a side effect of negative emotion translated by the mind into physical pain.  In a research environment, these placebos are used to prove the efficacy of pharmaceutical drugs. 

The group of scientists from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre randomly assigned 75 pain-free participants to one of four groups that used different pain-relief methods - mindfulness meditation, placebo meditation, placebo analgesic cream or pharmaceuticals.  A thermal probe heated to 49 degrees Celsius was used to induce pain.  Scientists then measured pain rating and used brain imaging to assess physical and emotional pain.

The study, established that mindfulness meditation uses different patterns of activity than those produced by placebo to reduce pain.

The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that the mindfulness meditation group of participants reported greater pain relief than the placebo group with pain reduced by 27% and emotionally by 44 percent. The pain in the placebo cream group, appeared to be reduced by 11 percent and its emotional impact by 13%. 

"This study is the first to show that mindfulness meditation is mechanistically distinct and produces pain relief above and beyond the analgesic effects seen with either placebo cream or sham meditation," said Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and lead investigator of the study. 

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