We all know that being around pets can be good for the soul, but can it also be good for the body? There is some evidence to suggest that owning a pet, or participating in pet therapy, can help alleviate chronic pain.
The Endorphin Effect
How exactly pets help alleviate chronic pain in humans is not yet known, but there are some clues that point to the answer. Being around pets naturally improves a person’s mood, which releases hormones and endorphins associated with happiness such as endorphins and oxytocin.
When these levels increase in the body, it can improve a person’s response to stress and even reduce or cover up the feeling of pain. While these levels are going up, the levels of the stress hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol are going down. When the body is less tense from stress, the feeling of pain can also decrease.
Pain Management Combination
While pet therapy alone can show an improvement in chronic pain symptoms, when used in combination with pain management techniques, chronic pain can be drastically reduced. Studies have shown that visiting with a dog for even a few minutes after a session at a pain management clinic can improve a person’s chronic pain dramatically.
A Worthwhile Investment
If visiting with a therapy animal regularly can help alleviate chronic pain, just think of how drastically it can decrease when living with one. Those who own animals are generally more physically active, because they have a reason to get up and get outside.
Increased physical activity can also help alleviate chronic pain. Keeping the body moving will loosen the muscles and joints, and physical activity increases endorphins that can lead to a feeling of positivity, thus reducing pain in the body.
Not for Everyone
Participating in pet therapy or owning a pet isn’t for everyone. Some people have allergies to pets, or they simply aren’t comfortable being around them.
If you have a pet allergy, check with your doctor to see if there are any safe breeds. Even just a short amount of time with a therapy animal is beneficial, so don’t rule it out until you’ve explored all of your options.