Nonverbal doctor-patient rapport relieved pain during acupuncture treatment

October 21, 2020

When 22 acupuncture clinicians and 23 patients seeking pain relief mirrored each other's facial expressions during acupuncture treatment, patients experienced less pain, according to a new study. Additionally, brain activity involved in representing the mental state of others, which is key for empathy and compassion, became more aligned after the doctor and patient had bonded during a clinical interaction prior to the treatment. Stronger alignment between these brain circuits was associated with stronger pain relief during treatment. The findings may help scientists better understand the neuroscience behind nonverbal patient-clinician interactions to improve clinical care. Positive clinical encounters are associated with higher patient satisfaction, mutual trust, treatment adherence, and clinical outcomes, while suboptimal interactions can result in miscommunication, clinician burnout, patient distrust, and decreased likelihood that patients will seek care. However, the behavioral and neural mechanisms behind these interactions have remained unknown. To investigate, Dan-Mikael Ellingsen and colleagues paired female patients suffering from chronic fibromyalgia pain with acupuncture clinicians. Pairs were assessed under two conditions - the doctor either first performed a consultation and intake with the patient to establish rapport before the treatment, or no such meeting occurred. For each treatment, the doctor prepared acupuncture needles attached to MRI-compatible electrodes hooked to an electronic needle stimulation device, then walked to an MRI scanner a short distance away, where they could communicate nonverbally with patients via video. Pairs that had established a clinical relationship beforehand - but not those who had just met - showed extensive alignment in brain circuitry involved in social mirroring during the treatment. Ellingsen et al. suggest that positive clinical rapport may provide a safety signal to patients, helping to drown out the pain and provide relief.
-end-


American Association for the Advancement of Science

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.