Mindfulness may be a buffer against pain

accreditation
Some people are more mindful than others, and those people seemingly feel less pain.
Some people are more mindful than others, and those people seemingly feel less pain.

Mindfulness meditation may take the edge off of pain, a new study suggests.

"Mindfulness is related to being aware of the present moment without too much emotional reaction or judgment," explained lead researcher Fadel Zeidan. He's an assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

"We now know that some people are more mindful than others, and those people seemingly feel less pain," Zeidan said.

The research was a continuation of a 2015 study that compared mindfulness meditation to a placebo painkiller. For the new study, the researchers had 76 volunteers who had never meditated complete a questionnaire for measuring mindfulness.

Pain buffer

The study participants then had a brain scan using functional MRI while being given painful heat stimulation.

The researchers found that those who had higher levels of mindfulness during the heat test showed greater deactivation of a brain region called the posterior cingulate cortex. In those that reported the most pain, however, that area of the brain was highly activated.

The brain network that extends from the posterior cingulate cortex to the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain continuously feeds information back and forth. This network is associated with processing feelings of self and mind-wandering, Zeidan explained in a Wake Forest news release.

"As soon as you start performing a task, the connection between these two brain regions ... disengages and the brain allocates information and processes to other neural areas," he said.

Pain therapy

"The results from our study showed that mindful individuals are seemingly less caught up in the experience of pain, which was associated with lower pain reports," Zeidan added.

The report was published online in the journal Pain.

"Now we have some new ammunition to target this brain region in the development of effective pain therapies," Zeidan said. "Importantly, this work shows that we should consider one's level of mindfulness when calculating why and how one feels less or more pain."

Based on his team's earlier research, Zeidan continued, "We know we can increase mindfulness through relatively short periods of mindfulness meditation training, so this may prove to be an effective way to provide pain relief for the millions of people suffering from chronic pain."

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 2057 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
48% - 8813 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
38% - 6967 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 679 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.43
+0.1%
Rand - Pound
19.78
+0.2%
Rand - Euro
16.66
+0.3%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.52
+0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.9%
Gold
1,777.69
-0.1%
Silver
20.14
-0.7%
Palladium
2,130.00
-1.0%
Platinum
934.62
-0.4%
Brent-ruolie
95.10
-3.2%
Top 40
64,689
+1.0%
All Share
71,474
+1.0%
Resource 10
65,314
+3.2%
Industrial 25
86,866
-0.1%
Financial 15
16,303
+0.9%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE