Think about the last time you had an emotionally painful experience. For example, maybe you lost a loved one, had an argument with a friend, or you were disappointed by the results of your hard work. After a difficult experience, sometimes the human tendency is to hole up, not interacting with the outside world. Fortunately, we often have friends and family who won’t let us disassociate ourselves with society, and suddenly you realize their company makes you to feel better.
This feeling is not an illusion. Researchers are now discovering that “companionship,” which sometimes helps us through painful experiences, may also help relieve nerve-related pain. In a recent study, scientists used mice with nerve-damage to gain insight on how these companions can change the way you can react to pain.
Researchers have found that socially isolated mice with nerve-damage were more sensitive to touch that induces pain. In contrast, mice with nerve-damage that were housed with other mice were better able to withstand the same touch, requiring a stronger painful touch to elicit a reaction.
Courtney DeVries, principal investigator, stated, “We believe that socially isolated individuals are physiologically different from socially paired individuals, and that this difference seems to be related to inflammation… These data showed very nicely that the social environment is influencing not just behavior but really the physiological response to the nerve injury.”
Based on the evidence, companionship can help you fight your pain by actually changing the way your body reacts to touch, which is otherwise painful to a patient with nerve damage. It is important to keep in mind that the results of this study are only preliminary. However, the study suggests that quality relationships could benefit a chronic pain patient and may be an important part of managing their pain.
As a chronic pain patient, have you found that you are in less pain when you a spending time with your loved ones?