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Touching Your Injury Reduces Pain

The instinctual clutching of an injured body part helps your brain process injury information and soothes pain.

Ever wonder why almost every time someone gets injured the first thing you see them do is grab their injured body part, while pushing away people trying to help? For example, who can forget the scene when Alex Rodriguez broke his left hand in late July? At some point, an injury or painful experience happens to us all and, as it turns out, there’s likely a good reason for our instinctual reactions.

In a study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers at the University College London examined a group of volunteers who agreed to place their ring and index fingers in warm water, while their middle fingers were simultaneously placed in cold water until they experienced pain. Pain scale rankings were then noted. When volunteers were allowed to freely rub both of their hands together, acute pain levels dropped by over 60%. However, when they were restricted from freely rubbing their hands together to allow for warm fingers to intertwine with cold fingers, or when they were only allowed to touch someone else’s hands, pain levels remained the same.

Researchers concluded that the main reason people immediately touch their injured body part is to reset their brain and provide it with a clearer picture as to the location, while simultaneously benefiting from a reduction in pain levels. Another key point they uncovered is that the act of rubbing away pain only works when the person in pain is doing the rubbing.

While more research will be conducted, at the very least, the study helps dismiss the notion that only the toughest guys resist any immediate attention, while also explaining why almost everyone immediately grabs their injured body part.

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