Just in time for the steadfastly approaching Valentine’s Day, a recent Arthritis Today article claimed that love maybe can conquer all….even arthritis pain!
But, how true is it?
According to the article, “a study of 15 people (8 women and 7 men) in the first stages of romance found that love activates the same reward systems in the brain as pain-killing drugs. When subjects looked at pictures of their newly beloved, brain scans revealed that their activated reward systems also sent signals to the spinal cord, blocking pain messages from reaching the brain.
‘This is the first time that it’s been demonstrated that psychological manipulation can do the same thing as drugs,’ says study author Jarred Younger, PhD, assistant professor of anesthesia at Stanford University in California.
The findings were reported in the October 2010 issue of the journal PLos One.
So, what else can you do to quell your pain? Staring into your beloved’s eyes wouldn’t be a bad idea, says Younger. ‘If you’re with your partner, remember how you met and what your first date was like. Even just thinking about your love and imagining times when you felt that euphoria will probably reduce pain.’
In between romances? Think about something that sends you over the moon – your favorite chocolate, the best holiday you ever took, your beloved cat, the work you’re crazy for.
‘If something is causing intense happiness, that probably means the reward centers are activated,’ says Younger.”
Now, folks don’t mis-read this. No one is saying that arthritis pain is “all in your head” … but wouldn’t it be amazing if a small solution for pain relief WAS?
It isn’t the first time that this topic has been broached.
Sure, most people living with many forms of arthritis need medications, and these drugs can serve as literal life-savers as well as valuable pain-management tools.
But, wouldn’t it be nice if we could help ourselves heal, and be an active participant in reducing our pain just by experiencing positive emotions like happiness and love?
Author and speaker Louise Hay has often talked about how positive thoughts and emotions such as love (love from others, love of ourselves and our bodies) can rewire our immune systems to “behave.”
Additionally, many health and medical journals have indeed cited the case for endorphins as natural painkillers. Endorphins are the “feel-good” hormones that are released when we exercise, laugh, or, yes, make love. Arthritis Today has even recently spotlighted laughter yoga for these very benefits.
Aside from the physical and chemical manifestations of love, there’s also the emotional support that comes into play. Dealing with chronic pain and illness is much easier with a strong support system — such as a loving partner, spouse, or even friend by our side. (It isn’t easy to maintain a good relationship when one partner is dealing with illness or disability, and some of you, I’m sure, are ready to cite statistics about chronic illness and divorce, but keep in mind that the divorce rates are pretty high even among the healthy….)
Additionally, this love needn’t be romantic. The love of a pet, a child, or even the love we feel by doing good for others can have positive impacts on our physical health.
So, I believe that love is very beneficial. Sure, it isn’t a cure-all, or many of us would never be sick and in pain.
But, isn’t it nice to think that love in all forms can positively affect our health and even change the world?
I don’t know about you — but I LOVE it!