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Crossing your arms can relieve pain

New research has suggested that crossing your arms across your body can lessen pain after burning your hand or sustaining an injury. Scientists have fo...

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|May 20|magazine4 min read

New research has suggested that crossing your arms across your body can lessen pain after burning your hand or sustaining an injury.

Scientists have found that crossing your arms confuses the brain about where pain is coming from and therefore an injury is perceived as being less painful.

They tested this theory by using a laser to create a pinprick of pure pain on the back of the hands of a team of volunteers.

The participants of the study had their brains scanned for pain responses and they also recorded how intense they felt the pain to be.

An identical test was then repeated but on this occasion the participants had their arms crossed across their body.

It was revealed through the brain scans and participant feedback that their perception of pain was reduced with their arms crossed.

The participants were tested when they crossed their arms over the ‘midline’ of their bodies, which is a vertical line running down the centre of their bodies.

Although researchers believe the most impact is felt on the hands and have not yet tested in on other parts of the body, they are hoping the discovery could lead to new pain reduction therapies.

Dr Giandomenico Iannetti, lead author of the findings which were published in the journal ‘Pain’, said in an interview: “Perhaps when we get hurt, we should not only 'rub it better' but also cross our arms.”

Explaining the results, he said: “In everyday life you mostly use your left hand to touch things on the left side of the world, and your right hand for the right side of the world.”

“This means that the areas of the brain that contain the map of the right body and the map of right external space are usually activated together, leading to highly effective processing of sensory stimuli.”

“When you cross your arms these maps are not activated together anymore, leading to less effective brain processing of sensory stimuli, including pain, being perceived as weaker,” he added.