As a Sacramento Chiropractor I know plenty about the therapeutic effects of “touch” in healing. My hands are my “instruments” in helping people get out of pain. So, anytime “hands” are given credit where credit is due, I am the first to pass it along. And, in this case, the hands are yours! A new study shows that self-touch offers significant relief for acute pain under experimental conditions. That’s right…not just your chiropractor’s hands are therapeutic! So, how do your “untrained” hands help to relieve pain? The researcher suggests that the relief comes from a change in the brain’s representation of the rest of the body.
What specifically did the researchers discover? “We show that levels of acute pain depend not just on the signals sent to the brain, but also on how the brain integrates these signals into a coherent representation of the body as a whole,” said researcher, Patrick Haggard, of the University College London. He, and his colleague, Marjolein Kammers, also of University College London, made the discovery by studying the effects of self-touch in people who were made to feel pain using an experimental condition known as the thermal grill illusion (TGI). When TGI was induced in an individual’s two hands and then the three fingers of one hand were touched to the same fingers on the other hand immediately afterward, the painful heat experienced by the middle finger dropped by 64 percent compared to a condition without self-touch. Now, before you start thinking that you don’t need your chiropractor anymore because your hand is singularly healing, the study also found that relief didn’t come when only one hand was placed under TGI conditions. Partial self-touch, in which only one or two fingers were pressed against each other, didn’t work either. Nor did it work to press the affected hand against an experimenter’s hand (though none of those hands were a chiropractor’s!) that had also been warmed and cooled in the same way.
The bottom line? The researchers’ believe that their findings might be put to practical use: “Our work suggests that therapies aimed at strengthening the multisensory representation of the body may be effective in reducing pain,” Haggard said. And, that’s just what chiropractic treatment is all about!