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Some Hi Tech Loving: A Battery Pwered Vest That Hugs Away Pain
Some Hi Tech Loving: A Battery Pwered Vest That Hugs Away Pain

A vest that delivers hi-tech 'hugs' may help ease chronic pain. The battery-powered wearable vest has pockets of air that inflate around the body to create the sensation of a hug.

It's based on the idea that real hugs produce benefits in a number of conditions, including stress, high blood pressure and heart disease.

A hug is thought to trigger the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can lower blood pressure and make you feel calm, while also reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

One study from the University of North Carolina found that after just ten seconds of hugging, levels of oxytocin increased while cortisol decreased.

The skin contains a network of tiny touch-detectors called pacinian corpuscles.

These egg-shaped structures contain nerve endings, and it's thought that the stimulation of these activates the vagus nerve, which runs from the abdomen up to the brain.

This has a crucial role in slowing heartbeat and reducing blood pressure, as well as triggering the release of hormones.

The sleeveless vest, called the BioHug, contains a computer within the material of the vest, and is pre-programmed to gives hugs at specific intervals and on different points of the body - around the shoulders, lower back or middle back.

Previous trials of the vest have shown that volunteers experienced a reduction of ten points in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure after using the vest.

These are the top and bottom numbers in a blood pressure reading, and represent the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and when it then relaxes.

The vest will be tested on patients with chronic pain in two trials at Ichilov Hospital, Israel.

The first will involve 40 patients - half will wear the vest, and half won't - and will analyse the impact the treatment has on the use of pain medication.

The second trial will involve 100 patients and compare the effect of the vest with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

This device sends small electrical signals into the skin through electrode pads stuck onto the body in order to override pain signals and reduce discomfort. (The machines are often used for pain relief in childbirth.)

Each trial will last for six months, with the patients using the vest daily for 20 minutes at a time.

Daily mail


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