Can touch from your
romantic partner reduce pain?

This study shows that supportive touch from a loved one is beneficial during pain in females.

The study included 30 healthy women volunteers who were in a committed,  monogamous and heterosexual romantic relationship for at least 3 months.

These females were subjected to an acute noxious heat stimulus (47°C for 11 seconds) during brain scanning (by fMRI) in two conditions: in the first one, they held a squeeze ball; in the second, they held the hand of her romantic partner.

Rating for pain intensity was lower during handholding compared to holding the rubber squeeze ball, as well as pain unpleasantness. Moreover, handholding reduced brain activity in pain- and stress-related areas and increased emotional comfort.

Together, the results showed the positive effects in sharing the burden of a painful experience with a romantic partner and indicates the existence of social touch-induced analgesia.


López-Solà, Marina; Geuter, Stephan; Koban, Leonie; Coan, James A.; Wager, Tor D.