So you think you can dance . . . your way out of pain?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Bronwyn Tarr from the University of Oxford. She invited two-hundred-and-sixty teenagers to a sciencey dance party. Half of them learned really energetic full-body dance moves. The other half sat in a circle and learned hand gestures. Party on! But in each group the researchers had some people synchronize their moves like a boy band. Others busted the new moves independently.

After the two groups boogied, Tarr tested everyone’s pain thresholds with a blood pressure cuff. She pumped it until it was uncomfortably tight. And?
The full-body dancers could tolerate way more pain! Which makes sense. Our bodies release endorphins when we exercise. And these make us happily numb. But the effect was strongest in those who danced in sync.

Individual dancers? Their thresholds went up, but not as much. Weirder? Even sitters got a pain-killing fix – as long as they coordinated their hand gestures. So synchrony itself somehow triggers an endorphin rush.

And I thought it was just the healing powers of the macarena!