How holding hands can help decrease pain, researchers reveal

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holding-hands(NaturalHealth365) Holding hands can be a romantic gesture or a way to show affection toward any human being you care about. Now a recent collaborative study by the University of Haifa and the University of Colorado Boulder is showing that holding hands can cause a measurable entrainment that reduces physical pain naturally.

Sharing human touch by holding hands results in a synchronization of numerous bodily processes, including heart rate, breathing and brain wave patterns. The study results also showed that the more compassion and empathy felt by the comforting party toward the person suffering pain, the more in sync their brain waves became. The higher the entrainment, the more pain relief experienced.

Why our society has ‘lost touch’ with the value of holding hands

As our culture becomes increasingly technology-centric and people spend more time engaging with devices rather than people, we tend to forget the valuable benefits of human touch.

This study is just the latest in a research category called “interpersonal synchronization,” or the physiological mirroring of the people you spend time with. The research results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Anecdotal evidence abounds about this effect.  After all, it certainly feels good to hold hands with someone you care about. However, the researchers were curious if there was a scientific, measurable effect.

Holding hands and human touch offset the isolating effects of modern technology

For the study, 22 heterosexual couples who had been together for one year or more ranging in age from 23 to 32 were placed in three different two-minute scenarios while their brainwave activity was measured with EEG scans. They were tested while sitting in separate rooms, sitting together and not touching, and sitting together while holding hands.

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The scenarios were repeated while the woman was subjected to mild pain through the application of heat to her arm.

While some entrainment occurred just by being in each other’s presence, the highest amounts of entrainment occurred when the couple held hands – while the woman was in pain.  In some cases pain temporarily interrupted synchronization, but the human touch brought it back.

Subsequent tests for levels of empathy in the male partner showed that the more genuine empathy he felt, the higher the levels of synchronization in the couple. Pain levels also subsided more dramatically in the female partner when empathy was highest.

Feeling empathy while holding hands yielded highest pain relief effect

The study showed that intention and what’s in your heart and mind matters as well. This was evidenced in the increased entrainment and pain relief effects experienced when the partner offering comfort felt higher levels of compassion and empathy for their suffering partner.

The researchers speculate that human touch blurs the boundaries between self and other in positive ways. Instead of feeling separate and apart, the simple act of holding hands helps people to feel connected and supported.

Sources for this article include:

EurekAlert.org