Can Meditation reduce pain in patients

Meditation is a mental practice of the mind and body that has long been used to create relaxation human beings. According to a study carried out by researcher’s from the Duke Cancer Institute in Durnham, NC, there seems to be a link between women undergoing breast cancer biopsies who practice meditation, experiencing a reduction in pain, fatigue, and anxiety. Breast cancer biopsy is a painful procedure for women who go through it. It involves the removal of of breast tissue. Women often times experience pain during after the breast biopsy. In this study, Dr. Soo and her colleagues randomized 121 women who were going through breast biopsies into three groups: guided meditation, music, and a control group. During the breast biopsy, the women in the meditation group listened to audio recorded that was embedded in love and kindess. The goal was for those women too obtain positive emotions and release negative emotions. Then, the women in the music group were listening to relaxing music from either choice of world music, instrumental jazz, flute, classical piano, nature sounds, and classical piano. The women in the control group just received supportive words from the medical biopsy team. Also, before and after the breast biopsy, the 121 women filled out questionnaires that was used to measure their anxiety and nervousness by ranking their biopsy pain from zero to ten, and gauged their feelings of fatigue and weakness. The results from the questionnaires depicted that the women the music and meditation groups showed more post-biopsy reductions in fatigue and anxiety compared to the women in the control group who reported increased pain, fatigue, and anxiety. Moreover, the women in the meditation group experienced much more less pain during the breast biopsy, compared to the women in the music group. From these results Dr. Soo, and her colleagues believe that mediation and music is good alternative instead of the use of drugs on breast biopsy patients, because the drugs administered on breast biopsy patients sedates them, and therefore often times requiring someone to drive the women home after the procedure. Besides mediation and music being an effective alternative to sedative drugs, meditation and music is much cheaper and simpler to administer than sedative drugs.

In a similar study to the breast biopsy study, research findings by scientists at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, reveal positive patterns in brain activity produced by meditation to be different than those created by a placebo. In this study, seventy-five pain-free participants were categorized into one of four groups: placebo meditation (relaxation), mindfulness mediation, placebo analgesic cream, or the control group. Pain was administered by using a thermal tube to heat an area of the the participants skin to 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which a a temperature level most human beings find to be painful. Then, the study participants their pain unpleasantness (emotional response), and pain intensity (physical sensation). After rating those things, the participants brains were scanned with an arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging (ASL MRI), before and after the four days of interventions. The results revealed that the mindfulness meditation group experienced a pain intensity reduction by 27% and associated emotional response of pain to be reduced by 44%, but the placebo cream only caused a reduction in the sensation of pain by 11% and the emotion response to pain to be reduced by 13%. Further more, the placebo mediation group revealed a nine percent reduction in pain rating, but a 24% in pain unpleasantness. The biological mechanism to the reduction in pain by those participants who practiced mindful meditation is due to the the activation of anterior cingulate cortex and orbitofronal brain regions, which are both associated with self-control of pain, whereas the placebo cream only lowered pain reducing brain activity in the secondary somatosensory cortex. The somatosensory cortex is an area of the brain the processes pain the body. The other thing to is that the thalamus was deactivated in the mindful meditation group, which may have caused the incoming signals of pain to not be felt by the participants in that group.
Both of these studies remind me of the discussion that was held in class when we learned that Leibovici in 2001 published a paper in the British Medical Journal that concluded that prayer could retrospectively improve the health of patients with blood poisoning. His paper proved to be false, but I think this happened because the hospital patients were not doing the prayer for themselves and were therefore not in a “mindfulness meditative state”, but rather other individuals were praying for them. The other possible reason as to why prayer was impossible prove to it improving the health of the blood patients has to do with amount of faith that these blood patients had that they would be healed. Faith is often times dictated by people’s life circumstances. In this case, the blood poisoned patients are in a life or death situation, so for a patient of that kind to have the faith that he or she would be healed from it is very hard for a person of that kind to accept and believe, compared to the women believing that they would go through their breast biopsy without experiencing pain.
Imaging-guided core-needle breast biopsy: impact of meditation and music interventions on patient anxiety, pain, and fatigue, Mary Scott Soo et al., Journal of the American College of Radiology, doi:, published 4 February 2016, abstract.
Duke Health news release, accessed 4 February 2016 via Newswise.
NIH, Meditation: in depth, accessed 4 February 2016.
Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain, F. Zeidan et al,Neuroscience letters, doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.082, published online 6 April 2012.
Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain, F. Zeidan et al.,Neuroscience letters, doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.082 , published 29 June 2012, abstract via Elsevier
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center news release, accessed 13 November 2015.


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