Living with pain is stressful, but a surprisingly short investment of time in mental training can help you cope.
A new study examining the perception of pain and the effects of various mental training techniques has found that relatively short and simple mindfulness meditation training can have a significant positive effect on pain management.
Though pain research has shown that extensive meditation training can have a positive effect in reducing a person's awareness and sensitivity to pain, the effort, time commitment, and financial obligations required made the treatment impractical for many patients. Now, a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte shows that a single hour of training spread out over a three day period can produce the same kind of analgesic effect.
The research appears in an article by UNC Charlotte psychologists Fadel Zeidan, Nakia S. Gordon, Junaid Merchant and Paula Goolkasian, in the current issue of The Journal of Pain.
"This study is the first study to demonstrate the efficacy of such a brief intervention on the perception of pain," noted Fadel Zeidan, a doctoral candidate in psychology at UNC Charlotte and the paper's lead author. "Not only did the meditation subjects feel less pain than the control group while meditating but they also experienced less pain sensitivity while not meditating."
"We knew already that meditation has significant effects on pain perception in long-term practitioners whose brains seem to have been completely changed—we didn't know that you could do this in just three days, with just 20 minutes a day," Zeidan said.
Though the results are in line with past findings regarding mindfulness practitioners, Zeidan says that the findings are important because they show that meditation is much easier to use for pain management than it was previously believed to be because a very short, simple course of training is all that is required in order to achieve a significant effect. Even self-administered training might be effective, according to Zeidan.
"What's neat here is that this is the briefest known way to promote a meditation state and yet it has an effect in pain management. People who want to make use of the technique might not need a meditation facilitator—they might be able to get the necessary training off the Internet," Zeidan said. "All you have to do is use your mind, change the way you look at the perception of pain and that, ultimately, might help alleviate the feeling of that pain."