What if there were a no-cost, nonsurgical, drug-free way to “close the gate” that lets the feeling of pain into your brain? Well, there is, say Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers—you just have to use your head.
For the study, 75 volunteers were burned with a thermal probe set at 120°F (“a level of heat most people find very painful,” the report notes) while their responses were recorded in an MRI. Subjects were then split into groups: One got four days of real training on mindfulness, like deep breathing/meditation, and three got fake lessons, a placebo cream, or nothing.
When the subjects were dragged—er, asked—back to the MRI to be burned again, the results were mind-blowing: Those who used their bogus treatment to try and handle the pain said it was lessened just a bit—likely a placebo effect—while the real mindfulness learners reported 27% less physical and 44% less emotional pain. In comparison, even morphine has been shown to reduce physical pain by only 22%.
The study, says lead author Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D., “shows mindfulness meditation can be used with existing pain therapies” —a potential pain-management boon.
For short, easy mindfulness meditations, go to marc.ucla.edu.