Cross Your Arms to Relieve Pain

Next time you prick your finger with a needle or hit your thumb with a hammer, try this little trick to help dull the pain: Cross your arms.

When you experience something painful, an electrical impulse travels from the affected area of the body to your spinal column and then on up to your brain, which translates the electrical impulse into pain. But research suggests that you can confuse your brain -- and dull the pain -- if you simply cross your arms.

A Show of Hands
In a study, participants' hands were subjected to stimuli that ranged from mildly uncomfortable to slightly painful -- but nothing more intense than a pin prick. And they experienced the sensation either with their hands at their sides or their arms crossed over their middles. Then the study participants rated the pain on a 100-point scale. And results showed that the intensity of the sensations was significantly reduced when people's arms were crossed. (Related: Find out how to manage arthritis pain every day.)

Fool Your Brain
Scientists speculate that this arm crossing somehow muddles the way the brain perceives pain. Normally, your brain maps both your body and the space around it. But if, for example, your left thumb is on the right side of your body and your thumb is hurting, the mismatch with the brain's body and space maps may confuse the brain just enough to throw off the pain-signaling process and dull the feeling. 

Defeat pain with your brain. Try meditation for a little mind-over-matter pain relief.