How shouting four-letter words can kill pain (doctors swear by it!)
NEVER mind popping pills, researchers may have found a far more straightforward way of relieving pain… swearing.
Yelling rude words can actually raise tolerance to pain, according to a study in which volunteers underwent increasing discomfort.
Those who swore were able to stand the pain for almost twice as long as those who remained polite.
Swearing on exposure to pain has long been seen by some cultures as an expected form of behaviour.
So the researchers – from the British universities of Keele and Central Lancashire – used not only British volunteers but also people from Japan, where swearing is rarely seen as a culturally acceptable response to discomfort. All were asked to put their non-dominant hand in ice-cold water.
Half were told to repeatedly use a swear word, either in English or Japanese, while the others used non-swear words.
The British cursers were able to keep their hands in the water for 78.8 seconds, compared with 45.7 seconds for those using the neutral word. The Japanese swearers managed 55.6 seconds, while the non-swearers could last for only 25.4 seconds.
‘Individuals from both cultures were more tolerant of the painful stimulus when swearing and this was not expected,’ said the researchers in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain, adding: ‘Swearing could be encouraged as an intervention to help cope with acute painful stimuli.’
One theory is that swearing stimulates the fight-or-flight response, causing increased heart rate and tensed muscles. Pain sensations are dulled as part of this response.
Another is that swearing increases levels of emotion which can reduce the sensation of pain, animal studies have suggested.