It turns out Mom was right when she warned of the ill effects of bad posture: A new study finds that poor posture can increase sensitivity to pain.

Likewise, adopting dominant versus submissive postures actually decreases your sensitivity to pain, said Scott Wiltermuth, Ph.D., and Vanessa K. Bohns, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.

The new study found that by simply adopting more dominant poses, people feel more powerful, in control and able to tolerate more distress.

Out of the individuals studied, those who used the most dominant posture were able to comfortably handle more pain than those assigned a more neutral or submissive stance.

Additionally, researchers expanded on previous research that shows the posture of a person with whom you interact will affect your pose and behavior.

In this case, Wiltermuth and Bohns found that those adopting submissive poses in response to their partner’s dominant pose showed a lower threshold for pain.

An interesting finding of the research is that whenever physically possible, people should not curl up into a ball when they are in pain — rather, try sitting straight and pushing your chest out and expanding your body.

Bohn’s and Wiltermuth’s research suggests that curling up into a ball may make the experience more painful because it will make you feel like you have no control over your circumstances, which may in turn intensify your anticipation of the pain.

Sitting or standing up straight can help create a sense of power and control that may in turn make the procedure more tolerable.

Based on previous research, adopting a powerful, expansive posture rather than constricting your body may also lead to elevated testosterone, which is associated with increased pain tolerance, and decreased cortisol, which may make the experience less stressful.

Further, emotional stress may also be relieved by adopting a dominant posture.

Finally, researchers advise caregivers to avoid actions that would cause an individual to assume a submissive posture as this will increase rather than alleviate stress and may cause the afflicted individual to be more susceptible to experiencing pain.

Rather, caregivers should take a more submissive position and surrender control to those who are about to undergo a painful procedure to lessen the intensity of the pain experienced.

The research is published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Source: University of Southern California