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Why Clutching An Injury Relieves Pain

Why Clutching An Injury Relieves Pain

Holding an injury really does help to relieve pain…

It’s almost the first thing you do when you experience a sudden burst of pain; you hold, or even rub the injured area. Now for the first time, science has shown that this might not be a useless reaction, but that it may actually help to reduce the pain.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, found that touching the affected area helps the brain to form a better mental picture of where the pain is occurring.

That’s why is does not work if someone else touches it, they said.

why clutching an injury relieves pain 550x365 Why Clutching An Injury Relieves Pain

Why Holding An Injury Helps To Relieve Pain

Scientists were able to experiment on people without actually damaging the body by using a phenomenon known as the thermal grill illusion.

In the experiment the participants were asked to put their middle finger in a glass of warm water and their index finger in a glass of cold water. This creates the illusion that the middle finger is painfully hot.

Lead researcher Dr Marjolein Kammers told the BBC:

The brain doesnt know this is an illusion of pain but it does allow scientists to investigate the experience of pain without causing injury to anyone.

The participants were then asked to touch their painfully hot middle finger with fingers from the other hand. The result showed a 64% reduction in pain when using three fingers, but no reduction in pain when using only two, or when using someone elses hand.

Professor Patrick Haggard, also from UCL, explained:

We showed that levels of acute pain depend not just on the signals sent to the brain, but also on how the brain integrates these signals into a coherent representation of the body as a whole

Self-touch provides strong evidence to the brain about the correlation of sensory information coming from different parts of the body

This helps to give us the experience of our body as a coherent whole, [BBC]

Dr. Kammers is currently continuing his research testing different areas of the body. Other studies have shown a correlation between the way interprets the body and how we feel pain amputees for example, often experience pain in their missing limb.

The new findings not only provide an answer to why we instinctively hold our injuries, but researchers say they now have an experimental model with which more research can be carried out.

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