Why a big hug is better than medicine and really will make you feel better


TLC: Hugging and touching create pleasure fibres, making us feel good

When we're feeling under the weather, most of us welcome a big hug.

And scientists say there's a good reason why. For a soothing touch really can ease away pain.

According to the Swedish research, when skin is heated to a temperature that makes us say,'Ouch', the pain can be lessened if you are stroked gently with a brush.

This could explain why parents instinctively cuddle a child who has fallen over or offer to kiss a bruise better.

Even a comforting hand on the shoulder in times of crisis has its origins in the biology of touch, the British Association's Festival of Science, in Liverpool, heard.

Research also shows that our skin is teeming with nerve fibres which spring into action when we are cuddled, stroked or gently touched.

They transmit the information back to the brain's emotional hub, creating feelings of pleasure.

Activation of these 'pleasure fibres',or C-fibres, stops other fibres from delivering messages of pain to the brain.

Professor Francis McGlone, of food and beauty firm Unilever, whose team discovered the C-fibres, said hugging and grooming such as brushing our hair, all play an important part in making us feel good.

'If you look at anybody stroking anybody else or a mother cuddling a baby, these movements are being driven by systems activated by C-fibres and they are fundamental to nurturing.'

All of us could do with a bit more TLC, he added.

'There is research showing that if you touch a patient when you are giving them bad news it makes a lot of difference.

'If a waitress touches your shoulder, then you are more likely to give her a tip.'

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