While there’s no proof that falling in love is good for your heart, it may be one of the best things you can do to help fight your arthritis pain. A study of 15 people (8 women and 7 men) in the first thrall of romance found that love activates the same reward systems in the brain as pain-killing drugs.
Participants were given three tasks: View images of their new love interest, view pictures of an equally attractive acquaintance of the same gender as their love interest and perform a word-association task that’s been previously demonstrated to reduce pain.
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. Seeing images of the new love interest was as effective a means of pain control as the word association task.
“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.