A team of scientists has discovered a new pathway in the brain that is a non-opioid process, which suggests that people can use mindfulness meditation to decrease pain.
The study, which received funding from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, shows that mindfulness meditation uses a different pain process inside the brain than the one that opioid pain relievers use.
The scientists stated that the opioid as well as non-opioid mechanisms for pain relief connect synergistically. They suggest that people experiencing pain use both non-pharmacologic as well as pharmacologic and mindfulness-based pain-relieving approaches. Combining these approaches may give patients the best results in reducing their pain.
Earlier research suggested that using mindfulness meditation could relieve a person’s pain, but the scientists did not understand how mindfulness meditation caused pain relief. Their specific questions applied to whether meditation could release the brain’s naturally occurring opiates.
The study involved 78 healthy adults. They either meditated or did not meditate after receiving painful heat stimuli as well as intravenous opioid antagonist naloxone, a drug that stops opioid transmission, or else a placebo saline.
The subjects were randomly divided into four groups. The first used meditation with naloxone; second used non-meditation control with naloxone; third used meditation with saline; and fourth used the control with the saline.
People who meditated with saline administration reported noticeably lower pain intensity as well as unpleasantness when they were compared to people who didn’t meditate with the saline.
The naloxone did not stop the meditation from relieving pain. Additionally, there were not any differences between the pain intensity or unpleasantness with the meditation-saline group and the meditation-naloxone group.