Can you heal pain via meditation?

Mind over matter is not just a figure of speech. Whether it’s chronic, intermittent or temporary, pain is experienced as a combination of an external stimulus and our internal responses. Whilst we often cannot combat the source of the pain, we can control our reaction to it.

In one study, [1] consisting of 3500 persons suffering from chronic or intermittent pain, those conducting it saw a marked reduction in the reporting of pain by the meditators, in comparison to those who didn’t take up the technique. Whilst this does not itself prove that meditation will eliminate pain, it suggests that it either greatly reduces it or it increases our ability to cope with it. This finding is no surprise, the link between meditation and pain alleviation is well established. The mechanism through which it works is quite simple; when we meditate we learn not just about the nature of our thoughts but we also learn the ability to allow them to pass us by without reacting to them – the exact definition of coping.

a women sits in front of a plant dealing with the pain of a headache

Looking inside the mechanics of pain

This link is no better exemplified than in a 2011 study, [2] which used MRI scanners to monitor how the brain reacts to a pain stimulus, thus removing the subjective nature of reporting. In the study, the area of the brain involved in controlling our pain response showed a great increase in its activity in the brains of those who had practised meditating in comparison to those who hadn’t. This study again suggests that meditation increases our ability to handle pain, rather than prevent it. 


Truly, mind over matter.


And here’s for the science, take a look in full: