The Simplest Way to Help Someone in Pain

Posted on July 19, 2017

You may have encountered instances where you are with someone experiencing physical pain, but feeling at a loss of how to help reduce their agony. A new research has shown that simply holding their hand is enough to reduce the pain they are experiencing.

This study focused on interpersonal synchronisation, or how a person’s physiological measures are in automatic synchrony with the people around them. According to the study’s first author, Dr Pavel Goldstein, a higher synchronisation is seen between two partners who are touching when the partner is more empathic. A stronger analgesic effect was also associated with higher synchronisation.

The study was conducted with couples allocated into three groups: 1) Sitting together but not touching. 2) Sitting together and touching. 3) Separated in different rooms. The female partner was then subjected to mild pain. The results found that simply sitting together, even before the painful experience, synchronised the heart rates and breathing of the couples. The pain disrupted this synchronisation, until the male participant held his partner’s hand.

Dr Goldstein remarked that the pain totally disrupts the interpersonal synchronisation, but is brought back with just touch. While Dr Goldstein is unsure how holding hands decreases pain, he suggests that touch is used for communicating empathy, and hence leads to the analgesic effect.


Source material from PSYBLOG

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