Love Can Relieve Physical Pain: Study

Turns out, love could help save you from pain.

University of California, Los Angeles, researchers found that when 17 women in long-term relationships were allowed to gaze upon photos of their significant others while undergoing a brief shock of pain, the intensity of their pain was lower than if they weren't looking at their loved ones.

Researchers looked at the women's brain activity, and saw that there was increased activity in a brain area associated with feelings of safety, called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, when they looked at the photos of their loved ones, the study said.

And the longer the women were in the relationship with their partners and the more support they had from them, the greater the activity in this brain region, according to the study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Wired first reported the research.

While this study was small, it isn't the only one to show that love has pain-relieving powers. A Stanford University School of Medicine study, published just last year, shows that passionate feelings of love can ease pain similarly to painkillers.

On the flip side, a study published this spring by researchers at the University of Michigan showed that social rejection, including break ups, can hurt just as much as physical pain. That's because brain regions associated with sensory pain are also activated when someone undergoes the pain of social rejection, the study said.