Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain.
Mindfulness meditation (MM) has been determined to improve conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. Recently, MM has been found to attenuate pain through some mechanisms i.e. cognitive and emotional control. Furthermore, cognitive modulation of pain is influenced by several factors ranging from attention, beliefs, expectations, mood and others. Emerging data indicate that it shares important common neural substrates engaged by other cognitive factors known to modulate pain. The main findings of this review are:
- There is evidence for the effectiveness of MM in the treatment of clinical pain;
- Mindful meditation modifies the subjective pain experience by enhancing acceptance and coping and it also changes how noxious stimuli are experienced. However, the nature of these changes remains unclear;
- Mindfulness-related pain reduction may also involve divided attention, distraction or non-specific changes in relaxation or mood;
- During pain, meditators exhibited greater activation in brain areas responsible for encoding sensory aspects of noxious stimulation (i.e. anterior cingula cortex, which may attenuate pain by employing cognitive control mechanisms);
- Experienced MM practitioners had significant reductions in pain unpleasantness ratings compared to a control group.
These findings suggest that cognitive practices, such as meditation, may reduce pain. Mindfulness-related pain reduction promises to be an important tool for understanding how our awareness of sensory events occurs as well as a potentially important adjunct to current treatment options for acute and chronic pain. > From: Zeidan et al. Neurosci Lett 520 (2012) 165–173. All rights reserved to Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
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