1% Thursday: When Photos are Painkillers

This one has been spinning around the internet lately, so you may have heard it.  It’s surely one of the most unusual painkillers out there (all right, maybe the legend of King Solomon beats them all)!

First, the tip, then the explanation.

Have a few photos of a loved one handy the next time you’re dealing with pain, and look at them.  Have a few in a frame beside your bed, for example.  That’s all.

This tip comes from a couple of studies that were done on the painkilling effects of photographs.  In the case of these studies, the picture was a romantic loved one – like a boyfriend or girlfriend.  But researchers believe that pictures of anyone you love may work as painkillers.

In the reports, the photograph tricked worked better than:

  • (for women) holding the hand of a male stranger behind a curtain
  • (for women) viewing a photo of a male stranger
  • viewing a photo of an attractive acquaintance

And it worked just as well as

  • (for women) holding the hand of a boyfriend behind a curtain
  • playing word association games

But before you start finding some word association games to play, here’s why the photograph is better:

Only photos of loved ones, however, sparked activity in reward centers within the amygdala, hypothalamus and medial orbitofrontal cortex. The faces of romantic partners also decreased activity in major pain-processing areas, such as the left and right posterior insula. Because the reward centers did not flutter in response to the distracting word game, the researchers argue that the salve of romantic affection is not mere distraction—it is a bliss as potent as that of drugs such as cocaine, which invigorate the same pleasure pathways.

So there you go – low in fat, inexpensive, legal, and as good cocaine.  How often do you get a 1% Thursday tip like that?!

via When Photos Are Painkillers (Scientific American)

What is 1% Thursday?

1% Thursday

Every Thursday at Headache and Migraine News (weather permitting) we’ll talk about one measurable, practical thing we can do to make our lives just 1% better.  Usually it will be something very easy, sometimes it will be a challenge.  Let us know if you try it, or share an idea of your own – and maybe a year from now we’ll see that things have really changed for the better!

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1 comment… add one
  • Jamie Apr 3, 2011

    Excellent tip! I can’t say that it’s actually works as a painkiller, but I LOVE having photos all around my living spaces. The only negative that I’ve experienced is sometimes feeling down, due to the fact that things (…I) have changed so much since many of my pictures were taken. But, pictures freeze enjoyable moments in time, and looking at them allows us to re-live them… a wonderfully powerful tool, especially when we’re in a lot of pain. Blessings!

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