Jax Doctor Agrees, Cussing Can Cut Pain | News

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Jax Doctor Agrees, Cussing Can Cut Pain

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Next time you stub your toe, go ahead and let those four-letter words fly. Cursing actually does help dull our perception of pain, research suggests.

In the study, researchers from the UK's Keele University asked participants for five words they'd likely use after hitting their thumb with a hammer; the first word listed would be their go-to profanity during the experiment. (They were also asked to list five boring words -- ones they'd use to describe a table.)

Participants were then instructed to submerge their unclenched hand in a container of 41-degree water, and keep it there -- while repeatedly cursing -- for as long as they could. Before and after plunging their hands into the chilly water, their heart rate was recorded. And after they could no longer stand the cold temperature, they were asked to rate the amount of pain they were in, too.

We spoke to a local doctor who said she agrees with the research.

"It helps you decrease the intensity of pain and helps you endure pain longer," said Dr. Parveen Khanna with the Institute of Pain Management in San Marco.

We even spoke to a sailor about his use of profanity, and if he thought it helped him with the pains of boat ownership.

"I've fallen off boats.  I cracked my sternum once," said Tom Stinson as he prepared his sailboat for an evening on the St. Johns River.

"Uttering something out loud definitely helps," he said chuckling.

What's surprising is that the researchers thought that swearing would make the cold water feel much colder, lowering the participants' tolerance for pain and heightening their perception of it.

"In fact, the opposite occurred -- people withstood a moderately to strongly painful stimulus for significantly longer if they repeated a swear word rather than a nonswear word," write the team, led by Keele University psychologist Richard Stephens, in the journal Neuroreport.

From the way participants' heart rates accelerated post-swearing, the psychologists believed their fight-or-flight response had been activated -- that may be because cursing can amp up feelings of aggression. (Think of a bunch of rowdy NFL players psyching each other up before a big game.)

Interestingly, women reported feeling less pain after swearing a blue streak. (Hilariously, the researchers report that cussing "did not increase pain tolerance in males with a tendency to catastrophise." That's the polite British way of saying some of the boys were total drama queens.)


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