Swearing: A Powerful Painkiller

Swearing: Mother Nature's built-in painkiller.

Posted Apr 19, 2011

You may already know this to be true, but now there is scientific evidence...

MSNBC, "The Body Odd" 19 April 2011 -- Next time you stub your toe, go ahead and let those four-letter words fly. Cursing actually does help dull our perception of pain, new research suggests.

In the study, researchers from the UK's Keele University asked participants for five words they'd likely use after hitting their thumb with a hammer; the first word listed would be their go-to profanity during the experiment. (They were also asked to list five boring words -- ones they'd use to describe a table.)

Participants were then instructed to submerge their unclenched hand in a container of 41-degree water, and keep it there -- while repeatedly cursing -- for as long as they could. Before and after plunging their hands into the chilly water, their heart rate was recorded. And after they could no longer stand the cold temperature, they were asked to rate the amount of pain they were in, too.

What's surprising is that the researchers had thought that swearing would make the cold water feel much colder, lowering the participants' tolerance for pain and heightening their perception of it. "In fact, the opposite occurred -- people withstood a moderately to strongly painful stimulus for significantly longer if they repeated a swear word rather than a nonswear word," write the team, led by Keele University psychologist Richard Stephens, in the journal Neuroreport.

http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/04/18/6489832-swearing-really-is-a-powerful-painkiller-study-shows

It's possible that swearing activated the body's fight-or-flight response (courtesy of the sympathetic nervous system).  Glad the swearing thing works - hitting your thumb with a hammer and yelling "four-legged" to reduce pain would be odd.

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