Navigation Links
Pain can be a relief
Date:2/26/2013

If you accidently kick your toe against a doorframe you are probably going to find it very painful. As a purely intellectual experiment, imagine purposefully kicking a doorframe hard enough to potentially break your toe. When it turns out your toe has been battered but not broken, the pain may be interpreted more as a relief.

"It is not hard to understand that pain can be interpreted as less severe when an individual is aware that it could have been much more painful. Less expected, however, is the discovery that pain may be experienced as pleasant if something worse has been avoided," explains Siri Leknes, Research Fellow at the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo.

The lesser of two evils

When working as a research fellow at Oxford University, Dr Leknes became curious about what can be called the "it could have been worse" phenomenon. How is the experience of pain affected by a feeling of relief from realising that it was not as bad as expected?

Dr Leknes recruited 16 healthy subjects who prepared themselves for a painful experience. They were repeatedly exposed to heat of varying intensity applied to their arm for four seconds.

The experiments were carried out in two different contexts: in the first, the heat was either not painful or only moderately painful about the same as firmly holding a coffee cup that is slightly too hot. In the second, the heat was either moderately or intensely painful. In this context, moderate pain was the lesser of two evils.

The research subjects reported how they interpreted the pain. In addition, while they were exposed to the stimuli their brain activity was measured by MRI.

Comforting pain

"As expected, the intense heat triggered negative feelings among all subjects whereas the non-painful heat produced positive reactions," explains Siri Leknes.

What intrigued the researchers was the subjects' response to moderate pain. In the experiments where moderate pain was the worst alternative, the pain felt was unpleasant. In the instances where it was the best alternative, the subjects experienced the moderate pain as positive even comforting.

"The likely explanation is that the subjects were prepared for the worst and thus felt relieved when they realised the pain was not going to be as bad as they had feared," states Dr Leknes.

"In other words, a sense of relief can be powerful enough to turn such an obviously negative experience as pain into a sensation that is comforting or even enjoyable."

The MRI examinations revealed that the brain changed how it processed moderate pain according to the context and what the alternative was. When the pain was comforting, there was more activity in the areas of the brain associated with pleasure and pain relief and less activity in the areas associated with pain.

A future in treating pain?

Dr Leknes believes that the study illustrates that exposure to one and the same stimulus is interpreted very differently among individuals and that the experience is connected to expectation and context. Some individuals like the burning sensation of eating chili peppers, for example, while others enjoy sadomasochistic sex.

Also, envisioning that an even worse alternative exists than what is actually experienced may even help a person to interpret involuntary pain as something agreeable.

Nevertheless, Dr Leknes points out, pain is generally a highly unpleasant experience and current pain alleviation treatments are inadequate for many people.

"That is why it is so important to find out how and to what degree the brain can control pain on its own. We are currently carrying out basic research, but we hope that this knowledge will one day be applied to develop improved methods for treating pain," she says.

Would it always be advisable then for a doctor to inform a patient that a procedure or treatment is going to be very painful?

"In some situations this may be a good approach, but not always," replies Dr Leknes. "Doctors observe that their patients react very differently to the information they are given; certain patients are likely to experience a genuine sense of relief if they prepare for the worst only to find it not so bad after all, whereas others prefer to avoid worrying beforehand and want to know as little as possible about what they will be undergoing," she explains.

Substance abuse from pleasure to relief

The study has been partially funded under the Programme on Alcohol and Drug Research (RUSMIDDEL) at the Research Council of Norway. "Relief is also likely a vital factor in substance abuse," asserts Dr Leknes.

"Over time, the effect of alcohol and drugs will change from triggering feelings of pleasure to primarily alleviating the discomfort of addiction. The brain's regulatory processes change, causing substance abusers to experience a shift; at some point, they use alcohol and drugs in order to achieve a neutral state and avoid feeling awful," explains Dr Leknes.

"By studying relief in order to understand how this process works, we can come up with new ideas for treating substance dependence more effectively. From our pain research, we know that the relief mechanisms in the brains of patients with chronic pain become disrupted. This may be something shared by patients suffering from pain and alcohol and drug addiction alike," she concludes.


'/>"/>
Contact: Thomas Keilman
thke@rcn.no
The Research Council of Norway
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Botox Offers Little Relief for Migraine, Study Finds
2. Study Explores Distractions Role in Pain Relief
3. Spider-Phobes May Get Quick Relief
4. The W3 Project Receives Support from Doulton for Emergency Relief Efforts
5. Deep Brain Stimulation May Offer Longer-Term Relief for Parkinsons
6. Back Pain Relief4Life Announces $47 Program
7. Vygone Introduces A New Zapper For Effective Relief From Herpes Virus Related Skin Problems
8. Relief for Migraine Sufferers as The Life House Offers New Findings, Free Consults
9. Vertebroplasty reportedly provides better pain relief and function
10. Generic drugs key to US overseas HIV relief
11. Standard radiation therapy dose provides pain relief for painful heel spurs
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... Many women are ... with endometriosis. These women need a treatment plan to not only alleviate symptoms ... can help for preservation of fertility and ultimately achieving a pregnancy. The specialists ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... First Choice Emergency Room , the ... Ogunleye, as the Medical Director of its new Mesquite-Samuell Farm facility. , “We ... new Mesquite location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, Executive Medical Director of First Choice ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... plastic surgery procedures that most people are unfamiliar with. The article goes on to ... known procedures, but also many of these less common operations such as calf and ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... Global law firm Greenberg Traurig, P.A. announced that 20 Florida attorneys are ... for this recognition are considered among the top 2 percent of lawyers practicing within ... of this year’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame: Miami Shareholders Mark D. Bloom, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 24, 2016 , ... ... today at the Clinical Decision Making in Emergency Medicine conference in Ponte Vedra ... authored journal articles published in Emergency Medicine Practice and Pediatric Emergency ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/26/2016)... Story Highlights: ... the health care industry is causing providers to review ... Deloitte offers a suite of solutions for health care ... cost optimization: labor resource analysis, revenue cycle optimization and ... outcomes and better economics ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... June 24, 2016 ... announced the addition of the " Global Markets ... This report focuses ... an updated review, including its applications in various applications. ... market, which includes three main industries: pharmaceutical and biotechnology, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition ... report to their offering. ... The World Market for Companion Diagnostics covers the world ... in the report includes the following: , ... by Region (N. America, EU, ROW), 2015-2020 , World ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: