Distraction Eases Pain
Getting your mind off your pain can relieve the agony. Actual physical changes are the key. That's what researchers reported on May 17th in Current Biology after subjecting volunteers to high levels of heat and recording responses with an MRI. The group that was asked to do simple mental tasks when the heat was applied to their arms suffered more than those who were charged with doing difficult tasks.
HealthDay reports that lead author Christian Sprenger of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf said that sufficient mental distractions "inhibit the response to incoming pain signals at the earliest stage of central pain processing."
"The results demonstrate that this phenomenon is not just a psychological phenomenon, but an active neuronal mechanism reducing the amount of pain signals ascending from the spinal cord to higher-order brain regions," he said.
HealthDay also said that "those effects involve endogenous opioids, which are naturally produced by the brain and play a key role in the relief of pain." When the researchers gave participants a drug that blocks the natural opioids, "the pain-relieving effects of distraction dropped by 40 percent."
The takeaway from this research is that whether you are a chronic pain sufferer or you have temporary pain from an injury or a routine headache, challenging your brain may work as well or better than popping Advil or aspirin or something stronger. Let your body's own inner "drugs" go to work for you!