Can You Cuss Away Your Pain? Study Says Yes

By Allison Bond | July 13, 2009 11:22 am

PainThe next time you stub your toe, bump your head, or otherwise hurt yourself, don’t feel guilty about belting out those four-letter words. A new study found that swearing when you’re injured actually increases your pain tolerance. This is reportedly the first study to provide evidence for the benefits of swearing, and it may explain why the practice has persisted for hundreds of years.

BBC tells us:

A study by Keele University researchers found volunteers who cursed at will could endure pain nearly 50% longer than civil-tongued peers….

He recruited 64 volunteers to take part and each individual was asked to submerge their hand in a tub of freezing water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice….

On average, the students could tolerate the pain for nearly two minutes when swearing compared with only one minute and 15 seconds when they refrained from using expletives.

Scientists hypothesize that swearing-as-pain-tolerance works by initiating the body’s fight-or-flight response, in which the hypothalamus signals the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. The process increases aggression, dampens pain, and allows us to better deal with stresses like pain or fear.

Well, it’s about #^@*ing time someone came up with a good remedy for pain!

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Image: flickr / asdf

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
  • Albert Bakker

    I think I like the results too much for a critical thought as I quite often urge my hypothalamus to signal the release of adrenaline and cortisol to my great statisfaction.

  • Bill White

    My Grandmother would NEVER approve!

  • erbey

    it may not be the swearing but more that it takes your mind off the pain maby get them to concentrate on something as a 3rd test

  • Ptericles

    Seems to me like swearing helps by acknowledging the pain thereby reducing it. Pain is a message from part of us saying there’s a problem. Once the message gets across, pain is no longer worth the energy and subsides. The problem with people nearby is swear words bring up ideas of various pains in general, not just the immediate pain of the person in the moment. Swearing seems to cause unneeded stress on innocent bystanders who don’t have any pain to acknowledge.

  • Albert Bakker

    If swearing would help to acknowledge pain, evolution would have favoured bigger vocal chords and maybe done away with these inneffective no good nociceptors.

    Instead of swearing to aid the pain signal so it can stop wasting energy, (which I gather isn’t really the first thing on the mind of your average pain receptor) you can drown it just a bit in other biochemistry and dull the pain somewhat momentarily, or you might be able to bear it just a little while longer, like in this test.

  • Pingback: How to Grin and Swear It – The Blogs at HowStuffWorks()


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