Power of the Mind: Ancient Wisdom meets Modern Science
Chronic pain is a highly demoralizing prospect. The successful management and treatment of chronic pain requires an iron will and steadfast mindset to endure. While the medical industry in our society is notoriously over saturated with the prescription of narcotic pain medications, any viable alternative form of pain relief is worthy of investigation and consideration. Despite our shallow understanding of neuro-biology, the more we learn about the neural pathways of the brain, the more we understand about the power of our brain to influence our physiology.
The term meditation is loaded with stigma. It is commonly associated with a religious context, its roots tracing back over 2500 years. Not all applications of meditation are, however, exclusively religious.
Mindfulness Meditation is a more western, secular, and research based application of meditative principles, principles which in recent years have continued to raise eyebrows in the scientific community. This form of meditation purports the idea of awareness in the present moment, an ability to listen deeply to our sensory perceptions and observe their immediate reality objectively.
Some may be inclined to classify this phenomenon as “focus”, but “focus”is likely an oversimplification of the utility of meditative practices. For example, researchers at the Department of Neuro-biology and Anatomy at Wake Forest School of Medicine have demonstrated a link between mindfulness meditation and cognitive, supra spinal mechanisms for pain regulation.
The study demonstrated that “Mindfulness-meditation pain relief was associated with greater activation in brain regions associated with the cognitive modulation of pain, including the orbitofrontal, subgenual anterior cingulate and anterior insular cortex”
With the state of today’s opioid epidemic, we need to look to any pain management alternatives that we can utilize. Drowning out the natural pain signals of the body with potentially dangerous medication doesn’t bring us to a solution of any permanence. The practice of mindful meditation is being continually and increasingly supported by research to provide a non-opioid process in the brain to reduce symptoms of pain. When coupled with the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, taking a look inward certainly couldn’t hurt us, and it very likely may help us.
Zeidan, F. (2012, June 29). Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. Neuroscience Letters,520(2), 165-173.