Injury Prevention & Pain Management

How Crossing Your Arms Can Reduce Pain Perception

It’s hard to believe, but a new medical study suggests that simply crossing arms can lessen pain! Scientists from University College London unveiled their findings yesterday, claiming that crossing of arms in front of the midsection significantly reduces the feeling of pain….

The UCL researchers, who reported their findings in the journal ‘pain,’ said that crossing the arms could confuse the brain and reduce the intensity of pain.

For the study, researchers used a laser that generated a four millisecond pin prick on the hands of a small group of eight participants, which gave them a sensation of pain that occurs without being influenced by the sensation of touch. (The sensation of touch masks the perception of pain. That’s why we often rub something that is sore.)

The volunteers experienced this pain twice with their arms at their sides and arms crossed.

All the study subjects were asked to rate their perception of pain intensity, and an EEG (electroencephalography) was also used to measure their electrical brain responses to the pain.

After analyzing results from both the EEG and the participants’ self reporting, the researchers found that the volunteers’ perception of pain was dramatically weaker when their arms were crossed.

“In everyday life you mostly use your left hand to touch things on the left side of the world, and your right hand for the right side of the world — for example when picking up a glass of water on your right side you generally use your right hand,” said head researcher Giandomenico Iannetti.

“This means that the areas of the brain that contain the map of the right body and the map of right external space are usually activated together, leading to highly effective processing of sensory stimuli. When you cross your arms these maps are not activated together anymore, leading to less effective brain processing of sensory stimuli, including pain, being perceived as weaker.”

What do these findings mean for you?

For decades the field of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) has suggested that changing your posture can influence the intensity of emotional and physical pain. After learning to walk barefoot over hot coals while experiencing no pain I got to learn first hand how your posture can influence your pain perception. This experience has often been dismissed by skeptics. However the results of this study confirm that you can influence your perception of pain by altering your posture and also gives us greater insight as to the mechanisms involved.

Considering  studies have shown that back pains and headaches can reduce work productivity by up to 41%  this research provides us with an additional drug-free tool to manage pain better. The message is simple….if you are in pain, change your posture.

You’ll probably notice that people experiencing physical (or emotional) pain are slouched forward and often looking down. My suggestion is to get more upright and look up more.

Communication experts say that body language constitutes about 55% of actual communication with others. The results of this study suggest that your body language may be an even more powerful tool in managing your body,mind and spirit.


I love to write on real-life facts. Working as a journalist on a local newspaper as senior editor. I love to listen music, gossiping with others, traveling and swimming.

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