Companionship and social interaction can ease pain

 Companionship and social interaction can help you recover more quickly from pain linked to nerve damage, according to a new study. Neuroscientists found that simply being in the same room as another person has the potential to reduce stress, which in turn allows the body to heal quicker.

Researchers studied mice which had recently undergone neurosurgery. Some were left to recover in a cage alone while others were given a companion, The Telegraph reported.
Those kept near to other mice suffered less nerve-related pain, called allodynia, and a quicker rate of recovery from inflammation than their lonely counterparts, researchers from Ohio State University found.

“If they were alone and had stress, the animals had increased inflammation and allodynia behaviour. If the mice had a social partner, both allodynia and inflammation were reduced,” Adam Hinzey, lead author of the study, said.

Millions of people suffer from the nerve pain known as peripheral neuropathy, which is often connected to diabetes, trauma and spinal cord injury. The skin can become so sensitive that even a gentle breeze can prove painful.

Few treatments for such sensory pain are currently available and the researchers hope the study could aid their development. “A better understanding of social interaction’s beneficial effects could lead to new therapies for this type of pain,” Hinzey was quoted as saying by the paper.

During the study, one group of mice was paired with a companion for a week whilst the other was left socially isolated.

For three days, some mice from each group were exposed to brief stress while the others were left alone.

Researchers then performed nerve surgery, producing sensations to mimic neuropathic pain on one group and a sham procedure that didn’t involve the nerves on a control group.

All groups were then tested with a light touch to their paws.
Those that had lived with a social partner, regardless of stress level, required a higher level of force before they withdrew while the isolated mice had a lower threshold and were increasingly responsive to a lighter touch.

“We believe that socially isolated individuals are physiologically different from socially paired individuals, and that this difference seems to be related to inflammation,” Courtney DeVries, professor of neuroscience at Ohio State University, said.
“The data showed very nicely that the social environment is influencing not just behaviour but really the physiological response to the nerve injury,” DeVries said.

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