The findings, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain, showed that when partners were present, both male and female participants demonstrated a higher pain threshold and tolerance, as well as lower pain ratings, compared to when partners were absent. (Shutterstock/KC Jan)
New European research has found that just having your partner with you could be enough to reduce feelings of pain, even without verbal or physical contact.
Carried out by researchers at the University of Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology (UMIT, Hall, Austria) and the University of the Balearic Islands (Palma de Mallorca, Spain) the new small-scale study looked at 48 heterosexual couples, and assessed their sensitivity to pain both when alone and when their partner was passively present, with no talking or physical contact.
The partners' dispositional empathy -- the tendency for people to imagine and experience the feelings and experiences of others -- was measured using a questionnaire.
The findings, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain, showed that when partners were present, both male and female participants demonstrated a higher pain threshold and tolerance, as well as lower pain ratings, compared to when partners were absent.
Higher dispositional empathy on the part of the partner was also positively associated with pain tolerance and inversely associated with experiencing pain.
Previous studies have already suggested that verbal support and physical touch could reduce pain, but until now the effect of passive social support -- being present without verbal or physical contact -- has not been as well documented.
"Repeatedly, talking and touching have been shown to reduce pain, but our research shows that even the passive presence of a romantic partner can reduce it and that partner empathy may buffer affective distress during pain exposure," said study author Professor Stefan Duschek.
The researchers noted that it has been suggested that empathetic feedback to a partner experiencing pain may promote intimacy and closeness and reduce the perceived threat, which helps to reduce feelings of distress, and therefore also reduce pain sensitivity and improve the ability to cope with pain.