The proven pain relief of touch

I had a major shoulder surgery just a few months ago. I remember waking up and being disoriented and in pain with a capital “P.”

But then, my husband leaned over the bed and took my hand and told me it would be okay. And, you know what? A funny thing happened…

Although I was still hurting and ready for the nurse to come in with some medication to put in my IV, it wasn’t quite as bad anymore. As he held my hand, I could tolerate the pain better and I felt less worried, scared and stressed out by it.

Now, the power of what my husband did for me has been scientifically proven…

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The power of touch

Two teams of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Haifa collaborated to discover what effect holding hands with your significant other can have on pain.

They actually took 22 couples and used an EEG to measure their brain wave activity in a number of different scenarios — sitting together not touching, sitting together holding hands and sitting in separate rooms.

Then they repeated all of those same scenarios but this time, the woman was exposed to a pain stimulus.

The researchers found that when the couples were together in the same room, their brain waves would begin to sync up – in other words mirror each other.

And, if they were holding hands, that syncing up was amplified.

Why is that important?

Because, when their brain waves synced up, the woman’s pain decreased. In fact, the more those brain waves synced, the more the pain went away.

Researchers also found that when she was in pain and he couldn’t touch her, the coupling of their brain waves diminished — leaving her in more pain.

Interesting right?

But guess what…

The researchers took it a step further and tested whether the man’s level of empathy for his significant other’s pain played a role in pain control too. And, it definitely did!

In fact, they discovered that the more empathetic he was to her pain the more their brain activity synced — and the more her pain subsided.

So, how can you put those results to work for you?

Reach for the hand of a loved one

There could be any number of reasons you deal with pain — it doesn’t have to be something as extreme as a shoulder surgery.

After all, 100 million of us in this country alone suffer from chronic pain — more than the number of people who have diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined.

And, this study’s findings now give you a way to decrease the level pain in your daily life using the power of touch.

Think of it this way… instead of reaching for that bottle of pain medication, you can reach for a loved one’s hand instead. Because, while this study only looked at the pain relief provided by holding the hand of your spouse or significant other, multiple studies have shown that pain relief from touch can come from many sources.

In fact, research at Duke University has shown that touch and massage can significantly reduce your levels of stress hormones and may even boost your levels of melatonin and the feel-good hormone, serotonin.

So, the next time you feel that pain taking hold — hold hands instead. Not only will you feel loved, you’ll feel less pain and stress.

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  1. Holding hands can sync brainwaves, ease pain, study shows — University of Colorado at Boulder
  2. AAPM Facts and Figures on PainAmerican Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM)
  3. How the power of touch reduces pain and even fights diseaseThe Independent
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.