Can Brad Pitt cure your headache?

It was the summer before grade nine. And, still new to what a period completely entailed, I was moaning about my crippling cramps.
By Astrid Van Den Broek
Can Brad Pitt cure your headache? Getty Images

It was the summer before grade nine. And, still new to what a period completely entailed, I was moaning about my crippling cramps. As in lying on the couch doubled over cramps, ones painkillers were having little effect on. But then in the early afternoon I saw that my favourite show was about to come on—The Monkees. (Really Astrid?) Yup, I was deep into their ‘80s comeback and playing my retro Monkees albums continuously, watching the show daily and had a raging crush on little Davy Jones. I lay down in front of the TV and soon got lost in those Monkees antics I found so charming at the time. The more into the show I got, the more those cramps disappeared and I soon forgot about them completely.

That was probably the first time I discovered that pain can sometimes be situational, that sometimes distractions can help me through pain. It was a trick I employed again six years ago when I gave birth to my daughter. I was determined to have a TV in the labour room and watch my then-favourite show, The O.C. (again, really Astrid?) hoping to distract me from the pain of delivering my first child. It worked for awhile until the TV got shut off because we were moving into serious contractions and delivery mode. But for awhile I got caught up in the Seth and Summer hate you/love you scenes and somewhat lost track of the pain rolling through my lower half.

It’s a subject California’s Stanford University has been examining in a recent study on the relationship between intense feelings of love and passion and pain alleviation. The study noted that deep love reaches the same parts of our brains affected by pain medications. Now what they’re talking about Bridges-of-Madison-County/I-just-started-dating-the-most-amazing-person-in-the-world kind of love, and while this study was small, just focusing on 15 people, eight of whom were women, this isn’t the first time a mind-body connection has been made between mental state and pain. As the Mayo Clinic points out, laughter for instance can relieve both stress and even provide pain relief in the long-term.


So what to do with this information? Grab my husband for a tête-à-tête whenever a migraine hits? Not exactly practical. However I do now know that distractions of the small screen seem to work for me when I’m in pain and can even turn my mood around for the better, so if he’s not around, I might call on the American Film Institute’s 100 years…100 passions list of top 100 most passionate movies. Or their equally entertaining list of top 100 Funniest movies if I need a hit of humour.    


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