Harvard Health Letter

Fool your brain, reduce your pain

Next time you're looking for pain relief, try a little distraction.

A recent study published in Current Biology found that mental distractions actually block pain signals from the body before they ever reach the brain. "Human brains have a limited capacity for attention. If you have a demanding enough task, you'll have less attention to give to your pain," explains Dr. Randy Gollub, associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Researchers found that challenging participants with memory games did more than just divert conscious attention from the body's pain messages; the distractions may have actually released natural painkillers that blocked the incoming pain signals as they entered the spinal cord.

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