Your nearest drugstore is full of completely fake pain remedies, from shoe magnets to magical ground-up shark bones. But while these new age medicines are little more than placebos, science has found a whole lot of unexpected -- and downright weird -- ways you can control pain without ever swallowing a pill.
Things like ...
There is more to life than money. Money is the root of all evil. Money can't buy happiness. You've been warned your whole life not to become too attached to money, so after all that brainwashing, you should be repelled by the mere sight of cash.
"Seriously Rick, stop tracking that shit into my house."
Not exactly. Despite society's best attempts to keep you grounded, your brain loves money. It loves it so much that just handling it actually works as a drug. In a study in China, participants placed their hands into very hot water for a short period of time. The participants who had just handled a stack of bills before the test showed a higher pain threshold than those who had just handled blank paper.
A stack of Franklins does more than any sled.
That is, the people who got to hold money right before shoving their hands into hot water found the temperature more bearable than those who held regular paper. Keep in mind, the people didn't think they would get to keep the money or anything like that -- simply being in physical contact with it made them feel less pain.
Based on these results, the researchers think money might also help lessen emotional pain, making things like breakups easier to deal with.
"You keep right on banging my brother, Shelly!"
In our ever-expanding society, "comfort eating" has become a pretty familiar concept. You get emotionally or physically hurt, you comfort yourself by eating the shit out of your favorite food, most likely some sort of dessert.
Such as the Gingerdead Man.
But that's just because we're a gluttonous culture, right? It doesn't matter if you aren't hungry -- you just keep eating because for whatever reason, you feel happier shoving that next Oreo into your mouth.
Actually, we can thank evolution for this one. Humans haven't always had it so good on the food front -- for most of our history, food was pretty damn scarce. If you managed to find or kill something to eat, you damn well found a way to make it last, because who the hell knew when you'd get your next meal. Due to this sad reality, our brains developed in a way that said, "If there is food in front of me and I am eating it, everything else can fuck right off," including any wounds you may have suffered in achieving said food.
It's hard to swallow while you're choking back tears.
Today, with food readily available to almost everyone in the Western world, this comforting, pain-relieving feeling may be contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Cheeseburger pizza might also be playing a substantial role.
If you've ever had a massage, you know they play soft, relaxing music in the background to help relieve some painful tension. But, the smooth sounds of Enigma might not necessarily be the best thing for you.
Or for anyone, really.
It turns out that listening to your favorite music -- even if that music is death metal songs specifically about pain -- allows you to tolerate up to twice your normal threshold of pain. Basically, the amount of pain you think you are feeling drops significantly.
And we're not talking getting through a headache or stubbing your toe on your Rock Band drum set. This study was done on people enduring long-term hospital stays and people who suffer from chronic pain, and all of the study participants were on seriously hard drugs for treatment. The addition of their favorite music to their hospital rooms dramatically decreased the pain they were feeling.
Listen to Slayer, gain a barbarianlike immunity to pain.
Now you might shrug this off and say, "Of course, it's a distraction. You're not thinking about the pain, so you don't feel it so much." But the weird thing is that only music appears to have this effect. The study also looked at other forms of brain-occupying stimuli, such as math puzzles, artwork and listening to comedians, none of which had anywhere near the same effect as music.
Sometimes comedians cause pain.
The over medication of children is a huge concern in the Western world. Many parents are worried about giving their kids pills for every little thing during a time when their bodies are still developing, and understandably so. As it turns out, kids have an effective pain killing ability that we jaded adults have completely lost.
On the plus side? More pills for us.
That ability is imagination. A child's ability to enter a made-up dream world is actually so strong that it has psychosomatic effects on the body. According to this study, getting a child to imagine that he is floating on a cloud is actually a more effective pain reliever than prescription drugs. The study concentrated on stomach pain, one of the most common childhood ailments and one that usually has no obvious or serious reason behind it.
Instead of subjecting kids to unnecessary pills or expensive medical care, the doctors found that using "guided imagery" (basically the same sort of thing that meditation tapes do) can usually completely eliminate abdominal pain with no medical intervention whatsoever.
Shut up and imagine.
It turns out there is a reason you grab your ankle the second you sprain it tripping over a table leg, spilling Mountain Dew Livewire all over your pewter Dungeons & Dragons figures. It doesn't make sense logically -- none of us has glowing E.T. fingers, yet we all do it.
Apparently this is because touching our own wounds helps our bodies deal with pain as it allows our brains to better "map out" the part of our body the pain is coming from. The more information the brain gets about the actual location, the better it can process and effectively deal with the pain. So actually, grabbing the afflicted area with two hands is the best option if you want it to feel better faster.
One way or another, that pain is gonna stop.
Say what you want about religion, but science says it can literally take your pain away. Researchers found that devout Catholics are better able to handle electrical shocks than atheists or agnostics, at least as long as they're looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary.
We'll stick with Vicodin and sloe gin.
Participants of all beliefs were told to look at two different paintings while their hands were being shot up with electricity. Those of the Catholic faith reported less pain when looking at a painting of the virgin mother as opposed to a painting of a random lady by Leonardo da Vinci, while the atheists and agnostics did not feel any pain relief no matter what painting they looked at.
It seems, this is more than just your run-of-the-mill placebo effect. The religious test subjects showed increased brain activity, while non-religious subjects had no increased brain activity. In other words, while the pain relief might have all been in the subjects' minds, looking at the painting actually did decrease the amount of pain they experienced, which is more than can be said for most holistic medicine practices.
Whereas grilled cheese sandwiches and cotton balls tend to just piss people off.
Alcohol is also a good painkiller. See how in The 6 Most Surprising Ways Alcohol Is Actually Good for You. Or learn what else music does for you, in 7 Insane Ways Music Affects The Body (According to Science).