Holding Hands Reduces Pain By Dr. Henry Sobo

Holding Hands Reduces Pain

By Dr. Henry Sobo

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if you suffer from pain and and are touched a loved one, your breathing and heart rate synchronizes with theirs your pain level may diminish.

Researchers with the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Haifa, also reported that empathy from a comforting partner reduces the pain that is being experienced. Lead author of the study,Pavel Goldstein, a postdoctoral pain researcher at CU Boulder says, “We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world and we have fewer physical interactions. This paper illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”

This study further explores the phenomenon known as “interpersonal synchronization.” It is felt that people physiologically mirror people they are with and in the context of brain wave synchronization, this brain-to-brain synchronization may play a role in “healing touch” or touch-induced pain relief.

The study recruited 22 couples, age 23 to 32 who had been together for at least one year. They compared the subjects in different situations measuring brain synchroniztion and brain wave activity. The different situations they measured were when the couiple was sitting together not touching. sitting together holding hands; and sitting in separate rooms. Then they repeated the scenarios as a partner was subjected to mild heat pain on the arm. Researchers found that when the female partner was in pain, and her partner couldn’t touch her, the coupling of their brain waves diminished. This matched the findings from a previously published paper from the same experiment which found that heart rate and respiratory synchronization disappeared when the male study participant couldn’t hold her hand to ease her pain. “It appears that pain totally interrupts this interpersonal synchronization between couples and touch brings it back,” says Dr. Goldstein.

Subsequent tests of the male partner’s level of empathy revealed that the more empathetic he was to her pain the more their brain activity synced. The more synchronized their brains, the more her pain subsided.

More studies are needed to find out, but Dr. Goldstein hypothesizes, “Interpersonal touch may blur the borders between self and other.

“You may express empathy for a partner’s pain, but without touch it may not be fully communicated.”

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