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Why rubbing it better makes pain go away

Rubbing a sore knee or arm after a bump really does help make the pain go away, say scientists.

Researchers have discovered that gentle stroking activates “pleasure” nerves beneath the skin, which then reduce the sensation of pain from other nerves.

They found that people who were exposed to painful temperatures on the surface of their skin felt less pain if they were stroked at the same time.

The scientists believe signals to the brain from the nerves that detect the pleasurable stroking dampen the signals from nerves that detect pain.

They found that the  optimum way of touching someone to produce the most pleasure was to stroke with a slow speed and little pressure and the picture that is emerging is that there are two separate nerves for painful and pleasurable touch.

They also seem to mediate each other, so rubbing does make pain feel better.

It has been found that the most pleasurable way to touch someone was to stroke at around two inches per second across the skin and applying pressure equivalent to a third of the weight of a five pence coin.

They created a machine that stroked volunteers, using a camel hairbrush, at this optimum setting, their pleasure nerve cells went wild with activation and sent signals to the pleasure centres of the brain.

The researchers,  also used brain scanning while exposing volunteers to painful temperatures. They found that those who were being stroked experienced less pain when they were not being stroked.

This explains why when we give ourselves a massage or deep tissue rub or apply heat with various contraptions, we do feel better, but the relief usually only lasts only for a brief period. This is because the underlying problem still remains and although the pain is temporarily blocked, it will return unless the properly dealt with.

If you experience a recurrent pain, please call us at +65 9724 1219 for an appointment with Dr Kevin Yip.

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