Handling ibuprofen increases pain tolerance and decreases perceived pain intensity in a cold pressor test

Pain contributes to health care costs, missed work and school, and lower quality of life. Extant research on psychological interventions for pain has focused primarily on developing skills that individuals can apply to manage their pain. Rather than examining internal factors that influence pain tolerance (e.g., pain management skills), the current work examines factors external to an individual that can increase pain tolerance. Specifically, the current study examined the nonconscious influence of exposure to meaningful objects on the perception of pain. Participants (N = 54) completed a cold pressor test, examined either ibuprofen or a control object, then completed another cold pressor test. In the second test, participants who previously examined ibuprofen reported experiencing less intense pain and tolerated immersion longer (relative to baseline) than those who examined the control object. Theoretical and applied implications of these findings are discussed.