Zen Meditation Helps Us Cope with Pain

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Zen Meditation

According to the results of a new study, people who practice Zen meditation experience an eighteen percent reduction in pain intensity, both in and out of meditation when compared to others who do not practice meditation. The new study shows that Zen meditation can help us cope with pain. The effect of decreased pain from Zen meditation translates to increased comfort for anyone experiencing chronic or acute pain.

According to the authors of the study, "If meditation can change the way someone feels pain, thereby reducing the amount of pain medication required for an ailment, that would be clearly beneficial." The research results about Zen meditation are published in the January edition of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Joshua A. Grant, a doctoral student in the Department of Physiology, co-authored the paper with Pierre Rainville, a professor and researcher at the Université de Montréal. Grant says, "While previous studies have shown that teaching chronic pain patients to meditate is beneficial, very few studies have looked at pain processing in healthy, highly trained meditators. This study on Zen meditation and pain was a first step in determining how or why meditation might influence pain perception."

Thirteen skilled Zen meditators with at least 1,000 hours of Zen meditation practice were enrolled in the study. Ten women and sixteen men between ages of 22 to 56, including thirteen people who did not meditate were compared for pain response. The researchers used thermal heat, applied to the calves at various intensities to define the levels of perceived pain between both groups – Zen meditators and non-meditators.


The researchers found those who practice Zen meditation had an eighteen percent lower pain sensitivity than those who did not meditate. The effect appeared to carry-over even when the Zen practitioners were not meditating.

Grant explains, "Slower breathing certainly coincided with reduced pain and may influence pain by keeping the body in a relaxed state. While previous studies have found that the emotional aspects of pain are influenced by meditation, we found that the sensation itself, as well as the emotional response, is different in meditators."

The current study reinforces that meditation can help control pain, potentially leading to decreased use of medication that can unwanted side effects, or may be poorly tolerated.

Meditation has been shown to have multiple benefits for stress reduction and pain control. Amidst other known health benefits, Zen meditation is now shown to provide comfort by helping to alleviate physical pain.

Study finds Zen meditation alleviates pain