The one thing that we can all agree on is that Cancer is very painful at the best of times. Pain is very difficult to cope with both for the person fighting this dreadful disease and for anyone else in their presence in times of pain.

Very often we do not know what to do when we see someone we love, or even a stranger, in terrible pain…

Everyone handles pain differently, including each child, and it is not always easy to see and usually even more difficult to know what to do. Some individuals prefer to be left alone, while others prefer to share their pain…

Sometimes people need to talk, sometimes they need to express their pain vocally, sometimes presence in times of pain is all that is needed. Sometimes (especially but not exclusively with children) only a hug will work…

While we are not all touchy-feely people, sometimes all that is needed is the touch of a hand on a shoulder. Holding someone’s hand to give them some of your strength will let them know that they are not alone… presence in times of pain.

Presence Reduces Pain

Various research studies have actually shown that ” Holding the hand of a loved one to comfort them really does help reduce pain.

Reach for the hand of a loved one in pain and not only will your breathing and heart rate synchronise with theirs, your brain wave patterns will couple up too, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world and we have fewer physical interactions,” said lead author Pavel Goldstein, a postdoctoral pain researcher in the Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab at CU Boulder. “This paper illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”

Interpersonal Synchronisation

The study is the latest in a growing body of research exploring a phenomenon known as “interpersonal synchronisation.” People physiologically mirror the people they are with. It is the first to look at brain wave synchronisation in the context of pain, and offers new insight into the role brain-to-brain coupling may play in touch-induced analgesia, or healing touch.

Sometimes reading to the person has a calming effect. It may even lull them to sleep, which in itself is sometimes the only haven from pain…

In times of deep stress, there are few words that matter and can touch us where we hurt, which is why sometimes all one can do is just to be there… to sit with people in their pain…

Sometimes being a presence and “being present” is enough….

Journal Reference:

  1. Pavel Goldstein, Irit Weissman-Fogel, Guillaume Dumas, Simone G. Shamay-Tsoory. Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201703643 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1703643115

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