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  1. #1
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Default Thinking Away the Pain

    Thinking Away the Pain
    Meditation as cheap, self-administered morphine

    By Jonah Lehrer*
    July 9, 2011
    The Wall Street Journal

    Excerpt:
    Pain is a huge medical problem. According to a new report from the Institute of Medicine, chronic pain costs the U.S. more than $600 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity. Back pain alone consumes nearly $90 billion in health-care expenses, roughly equivalent to what's spent on cancer.

    Despite the increasing prevalence of chronic pain—nearly one in three Americans suffers from it—medical progress has been slow and halting. This is an epidemic we don't know how to treat. For the most part, doctors still rely on over-the-counter medications and opioid drugs, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. While opioids can provide effective relief, they're also prone to abuse, which is why overdoses from prescription painkillers are now a leading cause of accidental death.

    But here are glimmers of progress in the war against pain. New therapeutic approaches don't target body parts or nerves close to the source of the problem. They don't involve highly technical surgeries or expensive new drugs. Instead, they focus on the mind, on altering the ways in which we perceive the pain itself.

    Consider a study by scientists at Wake Forest University. After only a few days of meditation training—teaching people to better focus their attention, concentrating less on the discomfort and more on a soothing stimulus—subjects reported a 57% reduction in the "unpleasantness" of their pain. Such improvements are roughly equivalent to the benefits of morphine.

    A brain scanner showed how the intervention worked. Learning to meditate altered brain activity in the very same regions, such as the insula and anterior cingulate cortex, that are targeted by next-generation pain medications. It's as if the subjects were administering their own painkillers.

    While this research demonstrates the therapy’s practicality—it typically took less than two hours of training to see a marked improvement—it's not the first time that scientists have demonstrated a connection between meditation and reduced sensitivity to pain.

    < read the full story >

    *Jonah Lehrer scandals http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonah_Lehrer
    Last edited by Vasilisa; 10-07-2012 at 01:02 PM. Reason: Jonah Lehrer disclaimer
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  2. #2
    Ginkgo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa View Post
    Consider a study by scientists at Wake Forest University. After only a few days of meditation training—teaching people to better focus their attention, concentrating less on the discomfort and more on a soothing stimulus—subjects reported a 57% reduction in the "unpleasantness" of their pain. Such improvements are roughly equivalent to the benefits of morphine.
    Surprisingly, I believe it. Pain is an illusion. I also have my own experience doing similar exercises.

  3. #3
    can't handcuff the wind Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    Thanks for this link.

    It ceases to amaze me what meditation can accomplish. I’ve recently read more than a couple of articles about how meditating every day makes significant physical changes in the brain. From this Utne page:

    A study published in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging reveals that “meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy,” Marsh writes.

    Researchers studied 16 participants in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. None of them were master meditators, yet their brains were changed by 30-minute meditation sessions.

    “When their brains were scanned at the end of the program, their gray matter was significantly thicker in several regions than it was before,” writes Marsh. He continues:

    One of those regions was the hippocampus, which prior research has found to be involved in learning, memory, and the regulation of our emotions. The gray matter of the hippocampus is often reduced in people who suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    The researchers also found denser gray matter in the temporo-perietal junction and the posterior cingulated cortex of the meditators’ brains—regions involved in empathy and taking the perspective of someone else—and in the cerebellum, which has been linked to emotion regulation.
    I’m not privy enough to medical discourse to know how much that^ overlaps with what’s posted in the op (as far as specific sections of the brain affected), but stating it in terms of consequence/benefits- ‘pain management’ is yet another new one to me.
    Reality is a collective hunch. -Lily Tomlin

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  4. #4
    Nips away your dignity Fluffywolf's Avatar
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    I can think away most pains without resorting to full blown meditation.

    The problem is once I go heavy on the workforce again the pain comes right back. So it's not the same as painkillers where it stays back even after you get busy again.

    Can meditation stop pain even after you stopped meditating? :P
    ~Self-depricating Megalomaniacal Superwolf

  5. #5
    Senior Member knight's Avatar
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    I can imagine leading someone with a gaping chest wound into meditation while their life slips away
    9w?

  6. #6
    can't handcuff the wind Z Buck McFate's Avatar
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    (at Fluffywolf's post)

    I'm going to guess that it would, because it actually changes the brain. Just like working out with more visible muscles makes it easier to lift things throughout the course of the entire day, it makes heavy lifting a little more effortless overall- I'd guess it would be the same with pain management. If that made any sense.
    Reality is a collective hunch. -Lily Tomlin

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  7. #7
    Nips away your dignity Fluffywolf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Z Buck McFate View Post
    (at Fluffywolf's post)

    I'm going to guess that it would, because it actually changes the brain. Just like working out with more visible muscles makes it easier to lift things throughout the course of the entire day, it makes heavy lifting a little more effortless overall- I'd guess it would be the same with pain management. If that made any sense.
    Then there is the issue of some pains like for example back pains, which may not be wise to 'think away' is the better course of action might be to 'take it easy' before you bust things up so badly there's no going back. Pun intended. :P
    ~Self-depricating Megalomaniacal Superwolf

  8. #8
    morose bourgeoisie
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    I don't think of meditation as thinking, really...

  9. #9
    No moss growing on me Giggly's Avatar
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    Hmm. This is especially good for people who have chronic pain.

    This makes me wonder exactly how controllable the mind is. Like with training and repetition could we make it so that the mental diversion away from pain is automatic and unconscious? Like the process becomes so unconscious that once pain starts, it's overridden before you can even "feel" it. A super mind over matter way.

    Nah, I don't think I'd like this because if it ever got to that point, I'm sure we'd be unconsciously overriding our "good" feelings too because it'd be impossible to maintain that much control over this miracle numbing thing.

    /krazy rambling

  10. #10
    Sniffles
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    In many military manuals concerning on how to survive torture by the enemy, these kind of techniques are often mentioned.

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