Tags: curse | cursing | swear | words | pain | relief | ice

Study: Occasional Cursing Relieves Pain

Monday, 05 Dec 2011 09:44 AM


Swearing provides short-term pain relief -- more so if used sparingly, says a new study published in the Journal of Pain.

An earlier study in 2009 found that participants were better able to withstand the pain of ice-cold water for longer periods of time if they repeatedly uttered curses.

The current study builds on this finding, by exploring the effect of swearing frequency.

Researchers at the University of Keele in the U.K. found that people who do not swear a lot (a few times day) could double their time in the ice-water challenge if they swore while doing so. But, those who reported swearing a lot (up to 60 times per day) received no pain relief benefit from cursing during the challenge. That is, they could withstand the cold water no better while cursing than when using neutral words.

Cursing produces aggression or anger in a person, which emotions result in "stress-induced analgesia," researchers theorize. Adrenaline surges through the body, readying it for its "fight or flight" response to stress -- a natural form of pain relief.

But for those habituated to swearing, the body's emotional response is dulled, leading to less adrenaline and therefore less pain relief, the findings suggest.

"Swearing is a very emotive form of language and our findings suggest that overuse of swear words can water down their emotional effect," said study author Richard Stevens, a senior psychology lecturer. "In the context of pain, swearing appears to serve as a simple form of emotional self-management."






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