Smell VS Pain

By Adrian David Cheok, Kasun Karunanayaka, Halimahtuss Saadiah, Sharon Kalu Ufere

What if people start using smell to relieve their neck and shoulder pains instead of medications.

Pain is a complex sensation and can only be described properly by the person who is hurt. People often think of pain as a purely physical sensation. However, pain also has biological, psychological and emotional factors. On the other hand, it is popularly believed that smells (odors) have the potential to influence human performance, behaviour, and mood. Some believed that by smelling a pleasant odor (such as aromatherapy treatment) can reduces the pain. Even though several of these claims lack significant scientific support, Marchand & Arsenault, 2002 and Masib, & Scaramuzzinoa,2002 has provided evidence that odors may modulate pain or tolerance in both humans and animals.

We investigate the role of smell in pain reduction and exploring the relationship between smell and pain by using olfactometer. This experiment uses an olfactometer as a tool to present the odour to the participants. The olfactometer can provide seven different types of odour and one odour is used per time.

The experiment is divided into two: (i) Cold pressor test and (ii) Pressure pain threshold using Algometer.

In the first experiment, the participants are divided into two groups. First group without smell and the second group with smell, released using olfactometer while dipping the hand (right or left) inside a cold ice water of about 7ºC for 5 minutes. The participants leave the hand in the water for as long as they can tolerate the pain and withdraw when they can no longer tolerate the pain. And the duration is recorded and compared between the two groups.

In the second experiment, is to measure the pressure pain threshold using Algometer to apply pressure on the shoulder muscles in an aromatized and un-aromatized environment. The pressure is increased from 0 at a rate of 30 kPa/s to a maximum pressure of 1000kPa. Participants are instructed to state when the sensation of pressure changes to pain.

In the future, would be to study if sweet smell can reduce pain and unpleasant smell can increases pain. We also plan to develop a Bluetooth patch that could measure muscle pain on the shoulder and release a smell once pain is detected.