We all understand the healing power of love, but new research from the University of Colorado suggests that its healing nature extends beyond a feel-good factor, claiming it can actually minimise physical pain.
The report, published in a scientific journal, claims that holding hands—one of the simplest acts of demonstrating love—can sync breathing, heart rates and brain wave patterns between partners, which ultimately eases pain.
“We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world and we have fewer physical interactions,” said Pavel Goldstein, a postdoctoral pain researcher in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at University of Colorado. “This paper illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”
Goldstein’s interest stemmed from the birth of his daughter, during which his wife found that her labour pains eased when he held her hand. “I wanted to test it out in the lab: Can one really decrease pain with touch, and if so, how?” he said.
The study involved 22 young heterosexual couples, who had been together for at least one year. Their brain activity was measured as mild heat pain was inflicted on one partner, first while the partner sat in a different room, then while sitting together without holding hands, and again holding hands.
Pain was diminished when the partners were in the same room, and diminished even further while they held hands. “It appears that pain totally interrupts this interpersonal synchronization between couples and touch brings it back,” Goldstein said.
“Interpersonal touch may blur the borders between self and other,” he goes on. “You may express empathy for a partner’s pain, but without touch it may not be fully communicated.”
A good reason to cosy up if ever we heard one.