Holding Hands Eases Pain

Hold the Ibuprofen and start holding hands. That, according to research conducted at Colorado University and the University of Haifa, may be sufficient to ease some pain. A Colorado University news release reports that researchers in Haifa worked with 22 heterosexual couples, age 23 to 32, who had been together for at least one year. First, they put the couples through several two-minute scenarios as electroencephalography (EEG) caps measured their brainwave activity. The scenarios included sitting together not touching; sitting together holding hands; and sitting in separate rooms. Then they repeated the scenarios as the woman was subjected to mild heat pain on her arm. The researchers found that merely being in each other’s presence, with or without touch, was associated with some brain wave synchronicity in the alpha mu band, a wavelength associated with focused attention. They also found that if the couple held hands while the woman was in pain, the coupling increased the most. When the woman was in pain and the man was unable to touch her, the brainwave coupling diminished. The news release reports that those results 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. Wait, there’s more. The researchers found that the greater the empathy of the male partner, the greater the brain synch, and the greater the diminishment of pain. How does that work? More research is needed, the researchers say.


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