Friday, February 6, 2009

Zen Meditation Reduces Pain Sensitivity in Study Group

Researchers have discovered that Zen meditation reduces pain sensitivity in and out of meditation, when compared to others who do not meditate. The study, published in the January edition of Psychosomatic Medicine, explored the difference in pain perception brought about by the centuries old practice.

According to Joshua A. Grant, a doctoral student in the Department of Physiology, co-authored the paper with Pierre Rainville, a professor and researcher at the Université de Montréal, “While previous studies have shown that teaching chronic pain patients to meditate is beneficial, very few studies have looked at pain processing in healthy, highly trained meditators. This study was a first step in determining how or why meditation might influence pain perception."

The researchers enrolled thirteen skilled Zen meditators with at least 1,000 hours of Zen meditation practice. The participants underwent a pain test that was then compared to thirteen non-meditators. Ten women and sixteen men between ages of 22 to 56 were involved in the Zen meditation and pain study.

The pain test involved applying heat to the calves of the study group intermittently, and at various temperatures. The researchers observed lower pain sensitivity in the Zen meditators, both in and out of meditation, compared to those who did not meditate.

The authors say, “Slower breathing certainly coincided with reduced pain and may influence pain by keeping the body in a relaxed state. While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators.”

Grant says, “If meditation can change the way someone feels pain, thereby reducing the amount of pain medication required for an ailment, that would be clearly beneficial.”

The study showed that Zen meditation may be a useful adjunct for treating chronic and acute pain. Zen meditation reduced pain intensity by eighteen percent even when the participants were not meditating.

Study finds Zen meditation alleviates pain