A new study from University of Toronto has delved deep to understand the impact of human social interaction on sensitivity to physical pain.
"Our study is among the first to show in humans that the perception of physical pain can be immediately impacted by the types of social experiences that people have in their everyday lives," said Terry Borsook.
Participants who experienced the indifferent social exchange reported less sensitivity to pain after the interaction when compared to that measured before the exchange. Participants exposed to the positive social interaction, however, exhibited no change in pain sensitivity.
"While the analgesic effect resulting from a socially disconnecting event might seem like a good thing, we know from a great deal of research in animals and humans that social threats provoke the well-known fight-or-flight stress response, of which pain inhibition is a typical component," said Borsook.
The results may be of such critical importance to human health and well-being that even a mild threat of disconnection can be stressful.
"What is remarkable about our results is that analgesia occurred in response to a type of experience that people experience in daily life, perhaps several times a day," said Borsook.
He added that the results also have important clinical implications when it comes to seeing your doctor.
"Health practitioners who are aloof, lack understanding, or are generally unresponsive to patients may provoke an analgesic response resulting in underestimated reports of pain, with insufficient pain control measures being a possible consequence."
The findings are published in the November issue of PAIN.