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How does the Transcendental Meditation Technique promote relief from pain?

Ask the Doctors -    Translate This Article
25 August 2011

Psychiatrist Christopher Clark, M.D.,* answers questions about effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique in bringing relief for chronic pain.

Q: When I feel a headache coming on, if I start meditating will it go away?  
Dr. Clark:
It's not that you have a headache or backache and then say, ''Oh now I'll go meditate to deal with the pain.'' The Transcendental Meditation technique is not an analgesic. It's a preventative. It tends to reduce the possibility of pain, and it also strengthens the physiology. One's actual pain threshold may not change, but the physiology gets stronger and therefore the pain is not experienced as acutely.

When one practices Transcendental Meditation regularly, the brain physiology changes. According to research studies funded by the NIH [National Institutes of Health in the US] that involved neuro-imaging of the thalamus and prefrontal cortex, long-term practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation technique showed a 40-50% reduction in brain activity in response to pain compared with a control group of non-meditators.

After receiving instruction in the TM technique and practicing it for five months, people in the control group also showed a 40-50 percent decrease in brain activity in response to pain.

The practice of meditation didn't change the intensity of pain experienced by the subjects—it changed their reaction, which suggested to researchers that the effect of Transcendental Meditation was in reducing anxiety and distress and improving stability and strength.

Related articles:
Research shows Transcendental Meditation reduces the brain's reaction to pain
Transcendental Meditation found to reduce chronic pain

Click here for more about Transcendental Meditation and chronic pain, including related research showing the effects of the technique in promoting reduction in pain, reduced stress, and faster recovery from stress.

* Christopher Clark, M.D., is a graduate of Yale University School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, and a recipient of a child psychology fellowship from the University of Washington. He has practiced medicine for over 20 years and is currently a psychiatrist in Vero Beach, Florida.

© Copyright 2011 American Association of Physicians Practicing the Transcendental Meditation Technique

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