Touch relieves stress and pain

Research paper by Eric Fishman, Eric Turkheimer, Douglas E. DeGood

Indexed on: 01 Feb '95Published on: 01 Feb '95Published in: Journal of Behavioral Medicine


There are few systematic investigations of the potential benefits of incidental touch as it occurs in medical health care settings. In the present laboratory study 60 college students participated in two testing sessions 1 month apart. These sessions involved counterbalanced conditions of baseline, pulse palpation (touch), cold pressor test (stressor), and combined cold pressor/pulse palpation. Heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure were measured during each condition. Subjective pain ratings were recorded during stress conditions. Significant decreases in cardiovascular measures and pain ratings were associated with physical contact. However, these changes were small and individual responses to physical contact were not stable over time. Physical contact produces a small but significant decrease in cardiovascular variables and the experience of pain. However, the tendency to show a cardiovascular response to touch does not represent a stable trait for individuals in the laboratory setting.