Meditation – More Powerful Than Morphine?

A AW

I use the techniques of relaxation, suggestion, focus of attention and controlled imagery, all constituent parts of hypnosis (and self hypnosis) to help clients manage pain. As do many other hypnotherapists around the world

So guess what? A recent study, undertaken by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina have just discovered that Meditation can be a more effective pain relief that morphine!

Now before we look at this in detail I have to point out the irony of a middle-American religion-based educational establishment claiming that meditation (aka hypnosis) is actually a good thing. Just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding about this, both hypnosis and meditation (directed or otherwise) is exactly the same thing. The techniques are the same, as are the desired results. In hypnotherapy, clients seeking pain relief (or pain management would perhaps be more correct) are taught self hypnosis (meditation) to manage aches and pains as and when the need arises.

Nonetheless, the researchers claim that meditating for just 20 minutes a day can reduce pain more effectively than powerful drugs like morphine. This astonishing discovery confirms everything that hypnotherapists have known for the last century.

Researchers recruited 75 healthy and pain-free people before dividing them into three groups and testing their pain responses.

One group of volunteers underwent meditation and mindfulness training while the second group was given a placebo cream. The third group were given nothing.

All the groups underwent a series of brain scans while a heated probe was pressed against their skin until it reached a ‘pain threshold’ heat of 49 degrees Celsius. The volunteers were then asked to rate the intensity of the pain, the level of unpleasantness of the pain, and their emotional response.

Scans made after the procedure on those taught the breathing and relaxation techniques of mindfulness meditation showed a calming of the regions of the brain which respond to pain. Meditation has been found to calm regions of the brain activated by pain, but what is interesting about this study is that the same parts of the brain are affected when hypnosis is used.

The results of the Wake Forest study were reported in the Journal of Neuroscience. Previous peer reviewed research has shown that morphine reduces physical pain by about 22%. The mindfulness meditation group reported that pain intensity was reduced by around 27% but the emotional toll of the pain was reduced by around 44%.

The placebo cream group didn’t fare too badly either – the placebo reduced the sensation of pain by 11% and the emotional aspect by 13% but displayed different patterns of brain activity.

This is obviously an important study and proves once again that you are a mind with a body, and not the other way round.

Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.