Thursday, November 3, 2016

Yes Someone Else's Bodily Pain Affects You

When someone is pain, the people around them naturally feel sympathy and offer to help in any way they can.  These people may even feel sad or in a down mood thinking about the person in physical pain.  Yet, a recent study suggests that the pain is contagious to the others.

The study focused on mice that were in physical pain and their roommates.  When one of the mice were in physical pain, the other mice in the room were found to be as physically sensitive to pain as the mice actually experiencing the pain.  In fact, the bystander mice could not see the mice in pain as they were only in the same room in their own individual cages.  This led the researchers to believe that the smell emitted by the mice in pain is what caused the bystander mice to have a lowered threshold to pain since the bystander mice could not see the other mice and get social cues.  Further testing of putting some of the pained mice's bedding in a completely different room and having healthy mice use that bedding demonstrated that the odor emitted by mice in pain is what makes healthy bystander mice become more sensitive to pain.  In essence, the pain was contagious through smell.

While human beings have not been tested in this manner, the results of the study make it plausible that bystander humans can react in the same way as bystander mice to a fellow friend in pain.  Our sense of smell is primal and goes directly to the brain, affecting its processing.  Ayurveda uses aromatherapy as a treatment modality because it works on a subconscious level, aiding healing.  It is worth noting that the sense of smell in humans is not as developed as mice and other animals, but smell does have impact.  Further, as humans we use our other senses of sight and touch in addition to our advanced social processing to experience another person in pain.

Clearly, we are affected by environment.  As human beings we like to help others, but we also need to be aware of the effect of other people on our well being.  We can help people and take steps to nurture ourselves too.  Being conscious of the contagiousness of pain makes us better caregivers.

Stay healthy & well,

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