A Brief Mindfulness Meditation Training Increases Pain Threshold and Accelerates Modulation of Response to Tonic Pain in an Experimental Study

Pain Med. 2016 Apr;17(4):628-35. doi: 10.1111/pme.12883. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


Objective: Research shows that mindfulness meditation (MM) affects pain perception; however, studies have yet to measure patterns of change over time. We examined effects of MM on perception of experimental heat pain using multiple psychophysical indices, including pattern of change in response to tonic painful stimuli. We also tested the potential moderating role of baseline mindfulness.

Method: Forty participants were randomly assigned to a brief MM training or control group. We assessed: a) heat pain threshold (HPT), b) temperature which induces pain at a fixed, target intensity level, and c) response pattern over time to tonic heat pain.

Results: Compared to control group, the MM group showed increased HPT and more rapid attenuation of pain intensity for tonic pain stimuli. Moderation analyses indicated that baseline mindfulness moderated effects of MM on HPT.

Conclusions: A brief MM intervention appears to affect perception of experimental pain both by increasing pain threshold and accelerating modulation of response. Findings may help elucidate mechanisms of MM for chronic pain.

Keywords: Mindfulness Meditation; Moderation; Pain Modulation; Pain Threshold; Tonic Pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Threshold / psychology*
  • Young Adult