Pain relief isn’t just a physical thing; distracting yourself can help you get through a painful experience. We’ve already seen that kids who watch cartoons don’t feel as much pain when they get a shot. It turns out that playing a game works even better than passively watching videos. Photo by R Pollard.
In a study published in Pain Research and Management, people were asked to hold their hand in ice-cold water while either watching Dragonball Z or playing a bubble-popping Wii game. They rated their pain as less, and their enjoyment greater, when playing the game than when just watching the cartoon.
I had a chance to test this idea recently, while I was having a baby. Traditional techniques for non-medical pain relief in labour include breathing exercises and massage, neither of which ever worked for me. But as I worked through the early stages of labour, I whipped out my phone whenever I felt a contraction, and played a few turns of Dots or Juice Cubes.
Amazingly, it worked. The games were simple enough that I could play through the pain, and engaging enough to occupy a little bit of my brain that would otherwise be thinking “ow ow ow.” You always get to a point in labour where nothing helps, but for a rough couple of hours, the games were a godsend.
Electronic gaming as pain distraction [Pain Research & Management]