11 February 2011
Patients who confront their fear of having an injection could experience less pain than their more squeamish counterparts.
According to new research conducted at John Moores University in Liverpool, focusing on sources of pain visually can actually reduce their impact.
The researchers also found that magnifying the pain-causing process actually amplified the analgesic effect of direct observation.
Lead author of the paper Dr Flavia Mancini said: "Psychological therapies for pain usually focus on the source of pain, for example by changing expectations or attention.
"However, thinking beyond the pain stimulus, to our body itself, may lead to novel clinical treatments."
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, used just 18 participants, who had their hands subjected to a heat probe.
Scientists used a mirror to adjust the size of a person's hand while the pain stimulus was being applied.
They found that those looking at their hands could tolerate temperatures that were three degrees Celsius higher than those who did not observe the application of the heat probe.
1 Manici, Falvia et al. "Visual Distortion of Body Size Modulates Pain Perception". Psychological Science. January 2011.
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