Studies have shown that mindfulness can be more effective than Morphine for pain relief. The claim is made that mindfulness can reduce pain and suffering by 90%. Although this may seem unbelievable to start with, when you delve a bit deeper it makes perfect sense.
There are two types of pain and they are often called Primary and Secondary suffering. None of it is imaginary, both sorts are very real sensations. Unpleasant sensations in the body are Primary suffering and this is data from the relevant body part to the brain. So if we have a cut or a broken limb the message is sent to the brain from this area. On top of this we have secondary suffering which are all the thoughts, feelings and emotions that are associated with pain. When we are in pain we often find ourselves worried and anxious. It can also lead to us feeing down, hopeless and exhausted.
Once you understand the different elements to pain then the impact of mindfulness makes more sense. If all the elements of pain arise from messages being processed in the brain then it begins to seem possible that training our brains can prevent us feeling pain.
Scientists have done research using MRI scans to demonstrate what goes on in the brain when we experience pain. They have demonstrated in numerous different studies that as anxiety increases so does the perception of pain. If we can train our minds to be less anxious then we can reduce our perception of pain. On a very physical level this makes perfect sense too. We all know that when we are anxious or stressed our muscles tighten and this increases tension and resistance in the body. When we are tense sensations are multiplied. If we relax then our bodies start to feel at ease and sensations ease or even disappear.
MRI scans have also been used to monitor brain activity in the section of our brains that processes emotions and cognitive control. This is the area where sensations of pain are actually processed before they are felt. Those who meditated regularly had enhanced activity in this area of the brain, they processed the messages more effectively which resulted in them feeling less pain. So even when the source of the pain is Primary the perception of the intensity of the pain can be dramatically altered by the training or your brain. Amazing.
For those suffering with chronic pain these scientific findings can open up whole world of new hope and inspiration. For mums about to go through giving birth it really seems that there is a great chance of getting through it without it being the worst experience of their lives as many fear. For those who risk physical injury there is at least some way to mentally prepare for the difficulties they may have to face. Knowing that there is something we can do means we put ourselves back in control. Being in a position where we feel in charge of our own bodies is hugely positive and can really put our minds at rest.
Come on a Revitalise Day to learn meditation and mindfulness techniques so that you can start benefiting from the brain changes that regular practice brings. If you can get started on this before you are in real pain the you will be well equipped whatever life throws at you.