Natural health cures for pain don’t get more natural than this, in the sense that it’s just nature, the nature of your own mind, at work. A new study has found an intriguing method of reducing the pain you feel. You simply look at your body. That’s all.
Let me explain. Published in “Psychological Science,” this piece of health news theorizes that, if you view your hand, it lowers the pain felt when a hot object touches the skin. And the level of pain depends on how large the hand looked — the larger the hand, the greater the effect of pain reduction.
It’s all about your brain, which is, after all, the source of the pain you feel. Researchers say that the image that the brain forms of your own body has a strong effect on the experienced level of pain. And the way the body is represented influences the level of pain you feel.
During the groundbreaking study, 18 participants had a heat probe placed on their left hand. The probe temperature was gradually increased, and participants stopped the heat by pressing a foot pedal as soon as they began to feel pain. The scientists used a set of mirrors to manipulate what the participants saw during the experiment. Participants always looked towards their left hand, but they either saw their own hand, or a wooden object appearing at the hand’s location.
The team found that just looking at the hand in pain reduced the hurt. The pain threshold was about 3°C higher when looking at the hand, compared to when looking at another object.
Next, they used concave and convex mirrors to show the hand as either bigger than in reality or smaller. When the hand was seen as enlarged, participants tolerated even greater levels of heat from the probe before reporting pain. When the hand was seen as smaller than its true size, participants reported pain at lower temperatures than when viewing the hand at its normal size.
This suggests that the experience of pain arises in parts of the brain that represent the size of the body. This visual trick may have influenced the brain’s spatial maps of the skin. The results suggest that the processing of pain is closely linked to these brain maps of the skin.
When children go to the doctor’s office, they are told not to look at the needle because it will hurt less. In fact, this may be the opposite of true. These results would say to go ahead and look at your arm (but not the needle). Try it the next time you are in pain. Look at the problem area. See what happens.