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March 2013





By  Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 22, 2013


The relationship between physical pain and the relief one obtains after removal of the pain is a topic of investigation in two new studies.


Researchers studied the specific emotions an individual experiences when a person receives relief from stress, work or pain. Specifically, investigators reviewed the psychological mechanisms associated with relief that occurs after the removal of pain, also known as pain offset relief.


Experts say the findings show that healthy individuals and individuals with a history of self-harm display similar levels of relief when pain is removed. This discovery suggests that pain offset relief may be a natural mechanism that helps us to regulate our emotions.


In one study, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill graduate student Joseph Franklin and colleagues wanted to determine if the relief found after removing pain is a result of positive emotions, or is the relief from the reduction or alleviation of negative emotions.


Franklin’s team used recording electrodes to measure participants’ negative emotions (eyeblink startle response) and positive emotions (muscle activity behind the ear) in response to loud noises.


In the experiment, the loud noise was presented alone at time and then at other times it was presented 3.5, 6, or 14 seconds after receiving a low- or high-intensity shock.


Participants showed increased positive emotions and decreased negative emotions after pain offset. The greatest increases in positive emotion tended to occur soon after high-intensity shocks, whereas the greatest decreases in negative emotions tended to occur soon after low-intensity shocks.


These findings shed light on the emotional nature of pain offset relief, and could provide insight into why some people seek relief through self-injurious behavior.


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