A Soothing Touch Works Better Than Medicine in Easing Pain

by VR Sreeraman on Sep 11 2008 3:31 PM

A soothing touch really can ease away pain, according to a group of researchers.

The scientists found that gentle stroking activates "pleasure" nerves beneath the skin, which then reduce the sensation of pain from other nerves.

In their research, the team found that people who were exposed to painful temperatures on the surface of their skin felt less pain if they were stroked at the same time.

The boffins reckon believe signals to the brain from the nerves that detect the pleasurable stroking dampen the signals from nerves that detect pain.

Professor Francis McGlone, a neuroscientist at the Liverpool University, has also calculated the optimum way of touching someone to produce the most pleasure.

While speaking at the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the researcher said that the key was to stroke with a slow speed and little pressure.

Professor McGlone, who also works for Unilever's research and development team to develop pleasurable textures for new produces, said: "The picture that is emerging is that there are two separate nerves for painful and pleasurable touch."

"They also seem to mediate each other, so rubbing does make pain feel better," Telegraph quoted the scientist, as saying.

Professor McGlone also believes that touch is crucial for children as they develop and insufficient physical contact while growing up could be implicated in the risk of depression in later life.

He said that human bodies were covered in pleasure nerve fibres, known as C fibres, apart from the palms of hands and soles of feet.