Facial expression of pain

Facial expression of pain seems to make you feel worse, according to a study published in the May issue of The Journal of Pain.  Healthy volunteers were asked to make a painful expression before the pain started and without anyone appearing to be watching (to avoid “social feedback”).  The pain was perceived more unpleasant when the volunteers made a painful facial expression compared to when a neutral facial expression was made.  Practical application of this study is in that people in pain should try to avoid grimacing from pain and keep their faces relaxed.  The authors discuss recent brain imaging studies which seem to confirm an old observation that facial expression can cause one to experience emotion that is being expressed.  In other words, forcing yourself to smile may improve your mood, while making an angry  face can make you feel angry.

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