A new study suggests meditation can significantly reduce pain, without using the body’s opioid receptors.
The findings are especially significant for people who have built up a tolerance to opiate-based medications and are seeking a non-addictive way to reduce pain, the researchers say.
“Our finding was surprising and could be important for the millions of chronic pain sufferers who are seeking a fast-acting, non-opiate-based therapy to alleviate their pain,” lead researcher Dr. Fadel Zeidan of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said in a statement.
The study included 78 healthy volunteers, who were injected with either a saline placebo solution or naloxone (Narcan), which blocks the pain-reducing effects of opioids. Naloxone is used to reverse the effects of a drug overdose.
The participants were divided into four groups. The first group received naloxone and meditated; the second meditated with no naloxone; the third meditated and received a saline placebo; and the fourth received the placebo and did not meditate, Medical Daily reports.
The researchers induced pain in participants with a thermal probe that heated a small area of the skin to 120.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and asked them to rate their pain.
Those who meditated and received naloxone had a 24 percent decrease in pain, compared with their responses before treatment. Among participants who meditated and got a saline injection, pain ratings dropped by 21 percent. In contrast, pain ratings increased in those who did not meditate.
He said the fact that meditation reduced pain ratings even in those who received naloxone suggests that meditation reduced pain without using the body’s opioid receptors.
Zeidan said, “At the very least, we believe that meditation could be used in conjunction with other traditional drug therapies to enhance pain relief without it producing the addictive side effects and other consequences that may arise from opiate drugs.”
The findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.