A neuroimaging study of twelve long-term practitioners of Transcendental Meditation discovered the individuals have a 40-50 percent lower brain response to pain when compared to 12 healthy control subjects. Moreover, when the 12 controls were instructed and practiced meditation for 5 months, their brain response to pain also decreased by a comparable 40-50 percent.
The findings, reported in the August 9th NeuroReport journal, www.neuroreport.com gives new insight on the value of transcendental meditation as a means to manage chronic pain and anxiety.
According to Orme-Johnson, lead author of this research, “Prior research indicates that Transcendental Meditation creates a more balanced outlook on life and greater equanimity in reacting to stress. This study suggests that this is not just an attitudinal change, but a fundamental change in how the brain functions”.
Transcendental Meditation could reduce the brain’s response to pain because neuroimaging and autonomic studies indicate that it produces a physiological state capable of modifying various kinds of pain. In time it reduces trait anxiety, improves stress reactivity and decreases distress from acute pain.
Pain is part of everyone’s experience and 50 million people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. Transcendental Meditation would have a long term effect in reducing responses in the affective component of the pain matrix. Future research could focus on other areas of the pain matrix and the possible effects of other meditation techniques to relieve pain.