Mindfulness meditation-based pain relief: a mechanistic account

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Jun;1373(1):114-27. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13153.


Pain is a multidimensional experience that involves interacting sensory, cognitive, and affective factors, rendering the treatment of chronic pain challenging and financially burdensome. Further, the widespread use of opioids to treat chronic pain has led to an opioid epidemic characterized by exponential growth in opioid misuse and addiction. The staggering statistics related to opioid use highlight the importance of developing, testing, and validating fast-acting nonpharmacological approaches to treat pain. Mindfulness meditation is a technique that has been found to significantly reduce pain in experimental and clinical settings. The present review delineates findings from recent studies demonstrating that mindfulness meditation significantly attenuates pain through multiple, unique mechanisms-an important consideration for the millions of chronic pain patients seeking narcotic-free, self-facilitated pain therapy.

Keywords: fMRI; mindfulness meditation; opioid; pain; placebo.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / psychology
  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Mindfulness / methods*
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome