Swearing Helps Pain

Growing up, many of us were chastised for using cuss words. Some of us may have been told that using four-letter words implied a paucity of vocabulary words. Now, a new study suggests that using bad words may help us fight off pain. That's good new for fibromyalgia sufferers who are on a continual quest for measures that may give them a break from the pain, if only for a short while.

The results of this study were published in the journal known as NeuroReport. The basic thrust of the study was to measure the length of time university students might be able to keep their hands submerged in ice water.

Sixty-seven students took part in the volunteer study. The students were given the option of choosing an expletive of their own choosing to repeat at will, or to chant a word considered neutral. The researchers found that when the students swore, they not only reported experiencing a lower level of pain, but that the cursing students managed to keep their hands submerged in the chill water for an approximate 40 seconds longer than those who chanted a neutral word.

Common Response To Pain

The researchers believe that while cursing has long been denigrated as a low-class behavior, there is every reason to think that swearing may have an upside. Richard Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University from England and the author of this study commented, "Swearing is such a common response to pain that there has to be an underlying reason why we do it. I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear."

While the researchers still don't know how swearing works to relieve pain, they speculate that the part of the brain that is linked to emotion plays a part in this reaction. Previous studies have demonstrated that the section of the brain associated with neutral language resides in the last few outer millimeters on the left side of the brain. Curse words, however, stem from an ancient evolved instinct and the part of the brain responsible for this process is located somewhere deep inside the right hemisphere of the brain.

Fight Or Flight

Researchers posit that the amygdala may be responsible for part of this reaction. The amygdala is responsible for triggering the fight or flight response in which the heart rate rises and there is less sensitivity to pain. Scientists back up this assertion by explaining that the heart rates of the participating students rose when swearing, which suggests to the researchers that the amygdala was, indeed, aroused.

The upshot is that if you suffer from the pain of fibromyalgia, you may want to try cussing, but Stephens cautions that the swear words begin to lose their emotional potency the longer they are repeated. You may have to be creative and come up with some new bad words when the pain becomes unbearable. Here's to bigger and better cursing!


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