Research says cursing makes pain feel better

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The next time you stub your toe or slam your finger in the door, your pain relief may come in four letters. Researchers in great Britain say swearing can actually make you feel better in painful situations.

"Cursing to ease the pain," said Pat O'Bryan.

" just can't help it," said Michelle Bevel.

"I can understand how it might work because so many people avail themselves to that method," said O'Bryan.

"I like the primal response," said Lee Kerr.

"Uhhh..a scream," said Curtis Franklin.

"That's as effective as anything," said Kerr.

The experiment was simple, really, all the volunteers had to do was stick their hand in some pretty icy cold water and keep it there for as long as they could. Volunteers who swore were able to keep their hands in the water longer than the volunteers who did not swear. And, reportedly, the women kept their hands in longer than the men. Bevel says that's not surprising. She gave birth to four children, including one naturally.

"Did you swear during childbirth," I asked Bevel.

"Yes, I did," she laughed.

"Did it help alleviate the pain," I asked.

"No, not really," she replied.

"If I hit my finger and I hurt it and if I say...a swear word, it still hurts," said Franklin. "It doesn't stop it, so maybe it's just a mental thing.

"There's definitely some distraction part of it and the mental," said Dr. Chad McNeil.

McNeil is with Azalea Orthopedics.

"This is called the gate theory," he explained. "It's kind of saying, 'Let's distract the brain, make it pay attention to something else, so it can't pay attention to this painful stimuli.'"

He says past studies have shown swearing activates different areas of the brain. In this case, combining cold water and cuss words is also physical.

"These patients that were swearing actually had an increase in their heart rate, relative to the people that didn't," he said. "For some people, it may be a good option - just go into a quiet room to do it."

...and never in front of the kids.

The study was published in the Neuro Report and involved a little more than 60 volunteers. On average, those who cursed, could keep their hands submerged in ice a minute longer.

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