Mindfulness meditation–based pain relief: a mechanistic account, article 8/13 (Ellie)

The usage of Opioids in order to treat chronic pain has led to an opioid epidemic. The amount of opioid misuse and addiction has been growing ever so steadily in recent years. There have been many studies done in order to highlight the importance of developing, testing, and validating fast-acting non-pharmacological approaches to aid and treat pain. Mindfulness meditation is a technique that has been found to significantly reduce pain in many experimental settings. Many recent findings from recent studies have gone to show that mindfulness meditation significantly relieves pain through multiple methods and practices. This is important to consider for the millions of chronic pain patients seeking narcotic-free pain therapy.

“the pervasiveness and burden of chronic pain has dramatically increased Medicare expenditures for steroid injections (over 629%) and opioid treatments (over 423%) The widespread use of opioids to alleviate chronic pain has led to an opioid epidemic characterized by an exponential rise in opioid misuse and addiction.”

it has recently been demonstrated that mindfulness meditation is more effective in reducing pain than placebo and does not engage endogenously driven opioidergic systems to reduce pain

Zeidan, Fadel, et al. “Mindfulness Meditation–Based Pain Relief: A Mechanistic Account.” US National Library of Medicine, 2016. US National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941786. p. 2

Throughout Buddhist culture, you will find monks have suggested that the practice of mindfulness meditation can significantly alter how one is experiencing pain. For instance, the ancient Buddhist text, the Sullatta Sutta, makes the claim that those who practice meditation have the unique ability to fully experience pain and to “let go” of the evaluation of pain. On the contrary, many scientists examined the mechanisms underlying mindfulness meditation–induced pain relief and health improvements.

In 1980, Nepalese “porters” were found to report significantly higher pain thresholds in response to pain-evoking electrical stimulation when compared to a well-matched control group.While the authors attributed these effects to religious practices (presumably meditation), it was not clear, at the time, if meditation practice directly produced analgesia. We have recently witnessed a significant increase in studies demonstrating that mindfulness meditation reduces pain reports across a spectrum of chronic pain conditions.

Zeidan, Fadel, et al. “Mindfulness Meditation–Based Pain Relief: A Mechanistic Account.” US National Library of Medicine, 2016. US National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941786. p. 3

A study conducted on disentangling the certain palliative, behavioral, neural, and pharmacologic apparatus involved in mindfulness meditation–related pain relief. In 2011, the effects of mindfulness meditation was examined in 15 healthy pain-free subjects after participation in a short mindfulness meditation–based intervention.

“During meditation training, subjects were instructed to close their eyes, sit with a straight posture and focus on the breath sensations, acknowledge distracting thoughts and feelings, and to simply let go of arising sensory events without judgment. Participants were taught that perceived sensory and affective events are momentary and fleeting and do not require further evaluation. In the first two meditation training sessions, subjects were instructed to focus on the breath sensations occurring at the tip of the nose and full flow of the breath. Meditation, after the four-session intervention, during noxious heat produced a mean 40% reduction in pain intensity and 57% reduction in pain unpleasantness ratings.”

Zeidan, Fadel, et al. “Mindfulness Meditation–Based Pain Relief: A Mechanistic Account.” US National Library of Medicine, 2016. US National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941786. p. 3

While mindfulness meditation practice can improve health and well-being, the active mechanisms supporting mindfulness meditation have yet to be fully characterized. Importantly, a wide range of nonspecific placebo-related effects are likely involved during meditation training. The opioid crisis signifies the need for a new harm-free way to relieve chronic pain. Mindfulness practices could possibly be used in order to treat chronic pain in years to come.

Zeidan, Fadel, et al. “Mindfulness Meditation–Based Pain Relief: A Mechanistic Account.” US National Library of Medicine, 2016. US National Library of Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4941786.

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