How Does the Mindfulness Program Enhance Pain Management?

These changes were not seen in people who took a similar course without mindfulness instruction – important new evidence that brain changes are caused by the mindfulness training itself, according to Joseph. Wielgosz, who led the work as a graduate student at UW- Madison and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University. This study is the first to demonstrate pain-related brain changes from a widely available standard mindfulness course in medical settings.

Popular with patients and promising for clinical outcomes, mindfulness training courses like MBSR have taken a central place in promoting a more effective approach to pain management. By practicing a non-judgmental, “present-centered” awareness of mind and body, participants can learn to respond to pain with less distress and with greater psychological flexibility. – this can eventually lead to pain relief.

Pain Treatment: New Insights

To measure response to nerve pain, study participants received brain scans while receiving a carefully controlled heat-based stimulus on their arm. The researchers recorded two brain-wide signatures of pain-related activity, developed by collaborator Tor Wager, a professor of neuroscience at Dartmouth College. This innovative technique dramatically improves the ability to detect pain-related signals in complex brain activity. Changes in signatures can also be more easily explained psychologically.


Participants in the MBSR course showed a reduction in markers related to the perceived intensity of pain.

“Our findings support the idea that for new practitioners, mindfulness training directly affects the way sensory signals from the body,” says Wielgosz, who is supported by the National Institutes of Health. can be converted into brain responses.

The study also looked at longer-term mindfulness training. Interestingly, the practice of intensive meditation retreats was associated with changes in neural notation for pain-forming influences indirectly – for example, differences in attention, beliefs and expectations, factors that often increase perceived pain levels in non-meditators.

“Just as an experienced athlete plays a sport differently from a first-timer, experienced mindfulness practitioners seem to use their mental ‘muscles’ differently than those who practice meditation,” says Wielgosz. first time.

These findings help show the potential of mindfulness practice as a lifestyle behavior.

The study also has implications for the pain research field using brain-based pain measures along with the subjective ratings of participants in a randomized trial. Pain researchers have long sought to measure the effectiveness of biological treatment.

“Looking at the neural signatures along with patient experience has revealed insights about mindfulness that we might never have discovered through either,” says Wielgosz.

Therefore, in addition to the insights into mindfulness, the researchers believe that their study may also provide a model for future research, helping to untangle the complexities of pain and ultimately. together reduce the burden it places on our lives.

Source: Eurekalert

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