Holding hands with a loved one connects the individuals in a way that can reduce physical pain, University of Haifa researchers have found.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
A study published by the University of Haifa indicates that holding hands with a loving partner can reduce pain. The study, published last year in the academic journal PNAS, was presented at the Society of Neuroscience in Chicago last month.
The research is unique in that it examined “brain-to-brain coupling during pain with interpersonal touch and tests the involvement of interbrain synchrony in pain alleviation,” according to the report by Pavel Goldstein, Irit Weissman-Fogel, Guillaume Dumas, and Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory, who lead the team. “Romantic partners were assigned the roles of target (pain receiver) and observer (pain observer) under pain–no-pain and touch–no-touch conditions concurrent with EEG recording.”
Twenty men and women in long-term romantic relationships participated in the research. The couples were studied in six scenarios involving holding hands or sitting together with no physical contact or sitting in separate rooms during the pain vs. no-pain conditions while varying partner touch–no-pain, partner no-touch–no-pain, partner no-touch–pain, and partner touch–pain. The EEG technology measured the electrical brain activity in both partners simultaneously.
“Our findings indicate that hand-holding during pain administration increases brain-to-brain coupling in a network that mainly involves the central regions of the pain target and the right hemisphere of the pain observer,” says the report. “These findings make a unique contribution to our understanding of physiological mechanisms of touch-related analgesia.”
In other words, holding hands is not only a loving act between couples, but it can also decrease physical pain. Additionally, the EEG results found that a couple’s brainwaves synchronize while holding each other’s hand.
The researchers conclude that there is “a dynamic interaction between biological, psychological, and social factors affecting pain perception.” However, this only seems to work when hand-holding is done between loving partners. A similar study done in 2016 that involved hand-holding between a patient and a stranger, such as a nurse or a caretaker, did not cause a reduction in pain.
“I’ve personally experienced over and over that when people come in for a massage or healing touch treatment and they are coming with emotional issues – stress, burdened with problems – not to mention physical pain from tight or pulled muscles, etc., compassionate, caring touch always helps,” Chava Bloom, Heart Touch Healing practitioner, told United With Israel. ” What happens is something beyond words – when two energetic fields meet with the goal of helping and healing, they align and succeed in relieving many maladies, whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual.”