A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford, has found that our physical experience of pain is influenced by the mood we are in at that moment. In other words, our brain influences how we perceive and deal with the pain we are going through, as a low or anxious mood disrupts a portion of our neurocircuitry related to regulating emotion, causing an enhanced perception of pain. The low mood may go as far as to drive the pain and make it feel worse. Mind and body are intimately linked when it comes to health and wellness.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to affect the way we attend to what is happening in our lives at any moment, and can impact upon mood in a positive manner. Therefore it is probably not surprising to read that a 2010 University of Manchester study, to be published in the Journal Pain, noted that experienced meditators found pain less unpleasant than did non-meditators. It seems that regular meditation can train the brain to anticipate pain less and reduce its emotional impact.
Dr Christopher Brown, who led the research, stated “Meditation is becoming increasingly popular as a way to treat chronic illness such as the pain caused by arthritis. Recently, a mental health charity called for meditation to be routinely available on the NHS (the National Health Service) to treat depression, which occurs in up to 50% of people with chronic pain.”
The finding is a potential boon to the estimated 40% of people who are unable to adequately manage their chronic pain. Dr Brown suggests that the reason meditation works is due to the fact that it is a training in remaining focused on the present moment and not anticipating future problems: “The results of the study confirm how we suspected meditation might affect the brain. Meditation trains the brain to be more present-focused and therefore to spend less time anticipating future negative events. This may be why meditation is effective at reducing the recurrence of depression, which makes chronic pain considerably worse.”
You can read more on the University’s website: http://www.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/display/?id=5801