No acces to painkillers after bumping your head? Just shout out all the bad, vulgair, and profane words you can think of. New research shows that swearing actually relieves your pain. But don’t curse to often, overuse of swearing decreases the beneficial effect.
The research was conducted at Keele University’s School of Psychology. The participants were asked to put their hands in room temperature water for three minutes, to be sure of similar handtemperature among the subjects. After, they plunged their hands into ice cold water for as long as they could while either repeating a swear word or a non-swear word. The researchers measured the level of perceived pain together with a change in heart rate while people swore or said their non-swear word, and also asked about their daily swearing frequency.
Results show that swearing increased the pain tolerance and heart rate in the subjects who repeated a swear word compared with the non-swearing control group. Remarkably, the more often participants reported swearing in daily life, the less extra time they were able to hold their hand in ice cold water when they repeated a swear word, compared with when they repeated a non-swear word.
Dr Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele, explained: ”Swearing is a very emotive form of language and our findings suggest that over-use of swear words can water down their emotional effect. Used in moderation, swearing can be an effective and readily available short-term pain reliever.”
Stephens, R., & Umland, C. (2011). Swearing as a Response to Pain—Effect of Daily Swearing Frequency The Journal of Pain, 12 (12), 1274-1281 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2011.09.004