New Research: Pain Relief.

PAINWhile there has been much research into the physical symptoms of pain, and how to relieve them with medicines and therapies, the emotional effect of things like stress and pain are not as well known. Now the Association for Psychological Science has explored these emotional mechanisms, and looked into what it known as pain offset relief (the feelings that occur after the pain has been removed).

It has been found that both individuals who are healthy, and those who self harm, have similar levels of this relief after the removal of pain. This result implies that pain offset relief is natural, helping us to control/regulate our emotions, not just for those who are either healthy, or are suffering from emotional disorders.

Feeling Worse To Feel Better: Pain-Offset Relied Simultaneously Stimulates Positive Affect and Reduces Negative Affect.

Joseph Franklin, Kent Lee, Eleanor Hanna, and Mitchell Prinstein.

In their research, Franklin et al investigated whether pain offset is related to more positive emotions, instead of just the removal of negatives. They used recording electrodes in order to measure their participants negative emotions (the eyeblink startle response) and positive emotions (muscle activity behind the ear) when responding to a loud noise. This was either presented alone, or presented 3.5, 6, or 14 seconds after receiving a low or high intensity shock.

Their participants showed an increase in positive emotions and decrease in negative emotion following pain offset. However, the greatest increase of positive emotion came soon following the high intensity shocks. On the other hand, following the low intensity shocks, negative emotions showed its greatest decline.

This uncovers some of the emotional nature of pain offset relief, giving us some insight into why people may turn to self harm to seek relief. Is it that the pain leaves them feeling slightly more positive emotions? Or a decrease in negative emotions? More research may be needed, however this study has given us some valuable information about pain offset relief.

(This study was published in “Psychological Science)

The Nature of Pain Offset Relief in Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: A Laboratory Study 

Joseph C. Franklin, Megan E. Puzia, Kent M. Lee, Grace E. Lee, Eleanor K. Hanna, Victoria L. Spring, and Mitchell J. Prinstein.

This study aimed to investigate why some people engage in self harm behaviours by examining whether the emotional relief that follows pain offset may be a trigger.

Franklin and colleagues used participants without a history of self harm, assessing them for emotion dysregulation, reactivity, self-injurious behaviour and psychiatric disorders. They used a similar electrode procedure as the first study, and, again, measured the positive and negative emotions expressed in response to loud noises. (These were also presented either alone, or at different time intervals following an electric shock).

The researchers were surprised to discover that the participants in this study (“healthy” participants) displayed comparable pain offset relief levels as those with a history of self harm. There was also no correlation between pain offset relief and self harm frequency.

So, unfortunately, the results do not support the hypothesis that heightened pain offset relief is a risk factor for self harm. Franklin et al instead argue that the greatest risk factor for self harm (non suicidal) may be that some people can overcome the natural barriers that keep most of the population from self-harming themselves.

(This study is published in “Psychological Science”)

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Written by Philippa Berry

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Published on: 25th March 2013

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