MINDFULNESS MEDITATION INDUCES PAIN RELIEF THROUGH THE ENDOGENOUS OPIOID PATHWAY – APRIL 12, 2016

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Star Bright
Photograph by Melanie Huff, National Geographic Your Shot
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Written By: Alexandra Lostun, BSc
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A new study from the American Journal of Medicine has determined that mindfulness meditation is able to induce analgesia (the inability to feel pain) by working with the body’s endogenous (internally-originating) opioid pathway. The body’s endogenous opioid pathway is responsible for pain relief and is activated when opioids bind to opioid receptors. Opioids can be endogenous, like endorphins and endomorphins, or can be exogenous (externally-originating), like the opium drugs morphine, codeine, and oxycodone.
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Researchers tested the effect of mindfulness meditation on the opioid pathway by using an opioid blocker, Naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that interferes with the opioid pathway by binding to opioid receptors and inhibiting the body’s ability to relieve pain. 15 healthy experienced mindfulness meditation practitioners participated in this double-blind study. Participants submerged their hands in water (a pain stimulus) and asked to rate their pain level. They then participated in a mindfulness meditation session. Following the session, participants were then asked to submerge their hands again, and score their pain levels. Next, participants were administered an IV containing either Naloxone or saline (as a placebo). Participants were they asked to undergo another mindfulness meditation, and then submerge their hands and rate the level of pain once more.
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The results show that pain scores were significantly reduced after the first mindfulness meditation session and after the second mindfulness meditation session when given saline. Participants who were administered Naloxone prior to the second mindfulness meditation session rated their level of pain much higher in the final pain evaluation.
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This study shows, for the first time, that mindfulness meditation involves the endogenous opioid pathway. Researchers hope the results of this study can be used for therapeutic implications; by linking mindfulness meditation and the body’s endogenous opioid pathway, this study proves that mindfulness meditation can have a great impact on acute and chronic pain patients.
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