Swearing: an effective pain reliever

A total of 71 participants underwent an ice-cold water challenge, with those who rarely swore being able to withstand pain for twice as long when they were asked to repeat swear words, rather than neutral words.

Participants who used swear-words frequently, at a maximum of 60 a day, did not benefit from swearing during the challenge.

But those who swore just a few times a day were able to endure emerging their hands in the ice-cold water for twice as long  – 140 seconds – when they repeated swear words, rather than repeating neutral words.

Researchers said swearing provoked an emotional response, such as aggression, leading to stress-induced analgesia. This produced a surge in adrenalin sparking the ‘fight or flight’ response, they said.

Control tests were done on all 71 participants in room temperature water.

Journal of Pain, online 14 November 2011

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