Mental distraction lessons pain
Turns out that distracting an individual who is in pain can truly help reduce the level of pain being experienced. A recent study out of Germany showed just how distracting one’s memory can block incoming pain signals. Volunteers were recruited and then
asked to complete either a hard or easy letter memory task while having a painful amount of ice applied to their extremities.
When the task being worked was harder, the pain being perceived was lower. It actually showed a lower activity on functional MRI when the task was harder.
The authors stated that the results showed it was not just a psychological phenomenon, but there was actually reduced pain signals going from the spinal cord to the brain. The authors initially thought that the endogenous opioids played an essential role in natural pain relief, and this was confirmed by administering an opioid blocking drug. This drug reduce the pain relieving effect from the distraction by 40%.
These results are interesting in that those experiencing pain may achieve significant pain relief by just simply keeping themselves busy and distracted from focusing on their pain.
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