Previous studies have indicated a positive relationship between self-compassion and psychological and emotional well-being in chronic pain populations. However, evidence on the role and mechanisms of self-compassion in pain perception was lacking and that is the research gap that this study aimed to fill. This study was designed to investigate the effects and a potential mechanism of self-compassion on experimental pain. Thirty healthy, pain-free, right-handed adults participated in this study. In order to reduce expectancy effects, participants were told that the aim of the study is to examine heartbeat response to cold water. One participant withdrew as not being able to tolerate the 3-minute cold pain.29 participants provided the data that was analyzed. 30 healthy participants underwent a compassionate self-talk protocol, which was followed by cold pain exposure during which HF-HRV was evaluated. The compassionate self-talk protocol successfully generated compassionate statements among the participants. Our behavioral data showed lower pain ratings in the self-compassion compared to the control condition. Moreover, self-compassion manipulation resulted in higher HF-HRV during pain, which was associated with lower pain ratings. We present interesting findings that a short period of compassionate self-talk may decrease experimental pain as well as mechanistic evidence surrounding bodily control over pain-related arousal indicated by HF-HRV.

Reference: https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(18)31032-0/fulltext