Experts from Germany have used the technique of magnetic resonance imaging and found that they could alleviate the condition of a person suffering from chronic pain. The reactions of the brain and the spinal cord showed that the pain was relieved due to the method that had long been known – namely distraction.
Scientists, as well as many people who personally know what chronic pain is, are sure that one can be distracted from the suffering by some occupation or even work. Idleness (even involuntary one), on the contrary, exacerbates heavy sensations as it makes you think about the problem all the time.
Previously, doctors believed that it was the manifestation of a psychological effect. However, the new study found that relief in this case is connected not only with psychology: the occupations that help people get distracted from pain launch a series of physiological reactions, causing some changes in the brain and spinal cord.
The doctors conducted an experiment. A group of 20 men were asked to perform several mental tasks of varying difficulty, and all the participants were exposed to the impact of pain. The results showed that at the time of facing the challenge the volunteers felt less pain than when solving a simple task. This sensitive technique also revealed the reduction of activity in the volunteers’ spinal cord while they were working on a difficult task. It means that the spinal cord delivered a much smaller amount of pain signals to the brain.
After analyzing the data, the researchers concluded that distraction during painful sensations promoted the production of natural opiates in humans. These substances provide an analgesic effect. This hypothesis was confirmed by the experiments with the blocking action of opiates. When the participants were given a blocking medication, their pain was not reduced even in the case of distracting maneuvers that had been successful before that.
The techniques based on the method of distraction are effective in treating chronic pain, and the doctors believe that this study confirmed the huge potential of these approaches.