Caffeine. Is there anything it can’t do? In recent years it’s been linked with everything from improved physical endurance and heart health to cleaner arteries and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
But what if caffeine could also help people process pain? That’s the preliminary finding of a new study published in the journal Psychopharmacology. And for once we’re not talking about caffeine taken as medicine or a supplement. This is your everyday cup of Joe.
“Relatively little is known about the potential impact of dietary caffeine consumption on the experience of pain,” corresponding author on the study, Burel R. Goodin, told PsyPost. Goodin is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “We wanted to address this gap in current knowledge.”
Heat and Pressure
The study involved 62 healthy adults who kept daily caffeine consumption and sleep diaries for one week, and had their sleep monitored independently by a small actimetry sensor on their wrist.
The participants then underwent pain threshold testing for both heat (applied to the forearm) and pressure (applied to the trapezius). Each 100 milligram increase in daily consumption of caffeine was associated with an impressive 5 degree celsius increase in heat pain threshold and a 31.2 kilopascal increase in pressure pain threshold. For reference, a 100 milligram dose of caffeine is what you’re usually getting from a typical cup of brewed coffee in the United States.
Before You Start Lurking at Your Local Starbucks
The one major caveat with the research is that it used a cross-sectional methodology, meaning Goodin and his colleagues couldn’t determine cause and effect. These results are correlational.
“Additional randomized and controlled studies are need to definitively determine whether a diet that includes regular caffeine consumption prevents the development of pain, or minimizes pain once it has already developed,” Goodin told PsyPost.
Besides, despite its many benefits, too much caffeine can be bad for you, leading to increased anxiety and insomnia, digestive issues and high blood pressure. It can also become habit-forming, particularly at higher doses.
In short, sip easy, my friend. Read the entire PsyPost story here.