Scientists have finally proven the old adage - if you don't think about the pain it won't hurt as much.
New research has provided a breakthrough that could revolutionise treatment of conditions including migraine.
Doctors used brain scans to monitor what happened when people experienced pain and then tried to determine whether there was any difference when they were distracted by another stimulus.
They found that people watching a film or listening to music felt less pain than those who concentrated on what was happening to them when they were hurt.
The research will be used to develop fresh treatments for painful conditions including migraine that do not rely on medicines.
The study, carried out at Oxford University, was being presented at a London symposium on migraine. Volunteers were touched on their hands with a painfully hot stimulus and the pain centres in their brains were monitored by MRI scan.
They were distracted using a film or music for some of the scans and made artificially anxious for others.
The technology could be used to assess the pain a patient was experiencing instead of relying on the patient's subjective assessment.
Dr Irene Tracey said: "Our experiments have confirmed that distracting someone, by showing them a gripping movie or getting them to listen to music, means the pain signals in the brain go down and because that happens, people feel less pain.
"Conversely, when someone is anxious or fearful, we see an increase in the brain's pain signals and people feel more pain."
Dr Tracey's work could also establish if the pain signals become "hard-wired" so that our brain thinks we are feeling pain even if we are not, or even if the person is making it up.
Six million people in Britain suffer regularly from migraines and many find medication alone is not sufficient to alleviate symptoms.
Professor Richard Lipton, of New York's Albert Einstein College, told the symposium that migraines cause scars on the brain that in turn cause more headaches.
The discovery means doctors are working on a way of preventing migraines instead of relieving the symptoms. Professor Lipton said people who were obese or took painkillers more than once a week were particularly likely to have pain that progressed into migraine.
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Anmerkung von migraeneinformation.de:
Mal abgesehen davon, dass wirklich schwere Schmerzzustände kaum weggedacht werden können, konzentriert sich diese Studie zu sehr auf das bekannteste Begleitsymptom von Migräne: Schmerz. Die im Artikel erwähnten Aussagen von Professor Lipton lassen aber vermuten, dass Gehirnschäden möglicherweise schon lange vor dem Schmerz entstehen. Verhinderung von Migräne bedeutet deshalb nicht Verhinderung des Schmerzes sondern Verhinderung der Migräne als Gesamtvorgang.
Daneben hat Schmerz - solange es sich nicht um chronischen Dauerschmerz handelt - häufig eine warnende Funktion. Wenn es im Rahmen eines Migräneanfalls zu schweren Versorgungsstörungen mit möglichen Langzeitfolgen im Gehirn kommt, dann ist nur verständlich, dass das Gehirn dies durch Schmerzsigale auch kundtut.