Affecting more than 75 million Americans at any given time, chronic pain can have a noticeable impact on mood the longer it stays around. Though initial treatment efforts like pain medications and physical therapy can be beneficial, new research suggests maintaining an active social life may be equally effective when it comes to managing chronic pain. The staff at The Spine Institute Center in Los Angeles discusses the possible relationship between maintaining a robust social life and reducing chronic pain.
A Study on Pain Tolerance and Social Activity
Involving a group of adults ranging in age from 18 to 34, a University of Oxford study included the use of a questionnaire to determine average social interactions. Subjects were asked to lean downward against a wall and stay in an uncomfortable position as long as possible to gauge their pain tolerance. Participants with a larger group of friends were able to hold the pose for about 4 minutes, while those with a smaller inner circle could only do so for about a minute.
Socialization Boosts Endorphin Activity
Researchers speculate increased social activity may boost endorphin activity in the brain. Endorphins are the body’s “feel-good” hormones that interact with pain receptors in the brain to change how pain is interpreted. These hormones also trigger a feeling throughout the body that’s very similar to what’s experienced with pain-relieving drugs like morphine.
What This Means for People with Chronic Pain
Researchers aren’t sure why there is a correlation between increased social activity and a reduction in chronic pain. However, the results of the study do provide an incentive for people living with ongoing pain to try to be more socially engaged by:
- Participating in fun, distracting activities with friends and family members
- Seeking out support groups to prevent isolation
- Exploring new hobbies and activities
Even without an identifiable cause, persistent or recurring discomfort can affect physical and mental quality of life. Staying as active as possible and engaging with other people can serve as a positive distraction from pain and may minimize the depression and anxiety that sometimes affects people living with chronic pain.
Though an active social life may help reduce your discomfort to some degree, it cannot completely heal a serious back or neck injury. If you are hoping to find permanent relief for your chronic pain, get in touch with The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration, a leading provider of spinal fusion procedures like XLIF surgery. Los Angeles patients trust in Dr. Hyun Bae and his expert team of surgeons to help them find relief and start living a pain-free life. Call 310-828-7757 today and schedule an appointment.