Past research has shown that having loved ones present or holding your hand can reduce pain. In a recent study, they wanted to know if a simple photograph of a loved one would produce the same results.
They assembled 28 women in long-term relationships and their partners. Researchers took photos of the partners for use in the experiment.
They tested the women’s ability to resist pain with a thermal stimulation test. They then exposed them to each of 6 different situations while experiencing pain:
1. Holding the hand of their partner while he was behind a curtain
2. Holding a squeeze ball
3. Holding a stranger’s hand
4. Looking at a photo of their partner
5. Looking at a stranger’s photo
6. Looking at nothing
Subjects rated the level of unpleasant feelings on a 21-box numerical scale called the Gracely Box scale.
Some of what the researchers found was expected. Holding a squeeze ball, holding a stranger’s hand and looking at a stranger or at nothing did not reduce the experience of pain. Holding their partner’s hand did reduce pain, a finding that is similar to what was found in other studies.
But what was surprising is that looking at a photo of their partner produced an even stronger pain-reducing effect than holding their partner’s hand (but only marginally so).
Yes. Looking at a photo of a loved one can relieve pain more than the actual person holding your hand.
Of course in this experiment the partners held their hands behind a curtain. So I wonder if the pain-reducing effects would be stronger if they held their partner’s hand and could see their partner at the same time.
Still, its amazing to think that the next time you are in pain or having a difficult time, you can just take a look at a photo of someone you love and reduce your pain in just a few moments.
What do you think of this idea? Please leave a comment below.