This 2-Second Trick Is Key For Reducing Physical Pain

Photo: Jennifer Brister

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What if reducing physical pain were as easy as reaching for your partner's hand and giving it a squeeze? According to science, it might just be: New research out of the University of Colorado, Boulder, found that holding hands allows our breathing and heart rates to sync up, thus reducing bodily pain.

Lead researcher Pavel Goldstein first became interested in this subject matter when he noticed that holding his wife's hand while she was giving birth seemed to reduce her labor pains. "I wanted to test it out in the lab," he explains. "Can one really decrease pain with touch, and if so, how?"

For the study, Goldstein monitored the brain waves of 22 heterosexual couples between the ages of 22 and 32, who had been together for at least a year, in three different scenarios. In the first, the partners were sitting together and touching. In the second, the partners were sitting together and not touching. And in the third, the members of the couple were placed in separate rooms.

In all three scenarios, mild heat-related pain was applied to the woman, while the man either held her hand, sat next to her, or sat in a different room. He found that the women who were holding hands with their partner felt the least amount of pain while the ones sitting next to their partner without touching or those sitting in a separate room didn't see a reduction in pain.

While this is a small study and didn't take homosexual partnerships into account, it's a great reminder of the power of human touch. "We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world and we have fewer physical interactions," explained Goldstein. "This paper illustrates the power and importance of human touch."

Want more proof of the power of touch? Here's why hugs are so powerful.

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