It might be too early to tell but recent research suggests that pain and hunger are related in some animals. This might have an important impact on our understanding of how to manage chronic pain and what we might do to “distract the body” away from pain.
The Study Itself
The research was conducted by Nicholas Betley of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s also important to note that this wasn’t a human trial, it was conducted on mice.
It went like this. The researchers took mice with sore paws. Then they fed some of them well and the other group was deprived of food.
The results were unequivocal. The mice without food spent considerably less time attending to their sore paws than those that were fed.
The researchers then traced this to a protein receptor in the brain called AgRP. This a receptor which is known to have an effect on eating. The study showed that when the receptor isn’t in use, it acts as a pain inhibitor.
Significantly, this pain inhibition only works for long-term. They showed this by giving the mice an injection of poison. The poison caused inflammation and the mice didn’t notice it. They did, however, notice the acute pain caused by the injection itself.
What Does This Mean For People?
We don’t know, yet, is the short answer. But the long answer is more complicated. Researchers use rats and mice because their bodies often work like human bodies do. That means you might be able to trigger the same effect at home.
Now… you can’t starve yourself for long periods of time without serious health risks. But you can when your pain is particularly bad, see if not eating reduces or blocks the pain. If it hasn’t had any effect within 24 hours – it’s probably not going to. Wait for more research.