Photo of a Loved One Reduces Pain
Study Suggests a Pain Relief Technique That Doesn't Require Medicine
Nov. 20, 2009 -- Forget aspirin and ibuprofen. A new pain reliever is
decidedly less medical: a photo of a loved one.
A new study shows that just looking at a picture of a loved one can help
reduce pain. Holding a loved one's hand also helps reduce pain.
The study included 25 women, mostly students at UCLA, who had been in good
relationships with their boyfriends for at least six months. The women received
heat stimuli to the forearm. Then they reported their pain levels while looking
at pictures of their boyfriends, while looking at a picture of stranger, and
while looking at a picture of a chair.
They also received stimuli and reported pain levels while holding hands with
their boyfriends, while holding hands with a stranger, and while holding a
Sarah Master, PhD and colleagues from the UCLA department of psychology
found that the boyfriends' "presence" -- whether holding their hands or just
seeing their photos -- reduced the participants' pain ratings.
"This changes our notion of how social support influences people," study
co-researcher Naomi Eisenberger, PhD, assistant professor of psychology
and director of UCLA's Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, says
in a news release. "Typically, we think that in order for social support to
make us feel good, it has to be the kind of support that is very responsive to
our emotional needs. Here, however, we are seeing that just a photo of one's
significant other can have the same effect."
The researchers offer a bit of practical advice: If your loved one can't be
with you when you are going through a painful experience, try bringing his or
her picture along.