Pain: Just Think No

August 18, 1996

The next time someone tells you that pain is all in your head, they could be at least partially right, according to a study led by Johns Hopkins researchers. Results suggest that "positive thinking" may help some people cope with pain better, while negative thoughts may worsen the pain by intensifying the anxiety everyone has about hurting.

The study will be presented Aug. 18 at the eighth annual World Congress on Pain in Vancouver.

In the study, 72 people held their hands in ice water and concentrated either on positive, negative or neutral messages rehearsed before the tests. All were evaluated for pain anxiety in a written test as well. The results found that people with high anxiety withdrew their hands from the ice water much sooner than people with a normal concern about pain, but that the positive messages nearly doubled the pain threshold and tolerance of both groups. Negative messages significantly lowered the pain threshold and tolerance in both groups. Threshold is the first feeling of pain; tolerance measures how long the pain can be withstood.

"These findings support our belief that most pain involves both a biological cause and the emotional response to it, and that treatment should address both these factors," says Peter S. Staats, M.D., the study's lead author and director of pain medicine at Hopkins.

The study's positive messages were that ice water made wounds heal faster, improved blood flow, strengthened fingernail beds and had other medical benefits, while the negative messages were that ice water was harmful. The positive and negative groups also repeated terms -- such as honesty or dishonesty, health or sickness, cleanliness or filth, sex or sexual abstinence -- that cause positive and negative mental images and make the participants feel more relaxed or more stressed.

The University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point participated in the study.
-end-


Johns Hopkins Medicine

Related Pain Articles from Brightsurf:

Pain researchers get a common language to describe pain
Pain researchers around the world have agreed to classify pain in the mouth, jaw and face according to the same system.

It's not just a pain in the head -- facial pain can be a symptom of headaches too
A new study finds that up to 10% of people with headaches also have facial pain.

New opioid speeds up recovery without increasing pain sensitivity or risk of chronic pain
A new type of non-addictive opioid developed by researchers at Tulane University and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine without increasing pain sensitivity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The insular cortex processes pain and drives learning from pain
Neuroscientists at EPFL have discovered an area of the brain, the insular cortex, that processes painful experiences and thereby drives learning from aversive events.

Pain, pain go away: new tools improve students' experience of school-based vaccines
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have teamed up with educators, public health practitioners and grade seven students in Ontario to develop and implement a new approach to delivering school-based vaccines that improves student experience.

Pain sensitization increases risk of persistent knee pain
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) School of Rehabilitation and Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont Research Centre (CRHMR) in collaboration with researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away
A new study by researchers in Montreal and Boston looks at the role that pain plays in osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 300 million adults worldwide.

Pain disruption therapy treats source of chronic back pain
People with treatment-resistant back pain may get significant and lasting relief with dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation therapy, an innovative treatment that short-circuits pain, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2018 annual meeting.

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology.

Peripheral nerve block provides some with long-lasting pain relief for severe facial pain
A new study has shown that use of peripheral nerve blocks in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) may produce long-term pain relief.

Read More: Pain News and Pain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.