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Go Ahead and Swear: The New Pain Management

I think most of us have a go-to swear word. The term you mutter, shout, or scream when you stub your toe in the middle of the night. It turns out that swearing might be a viable form of pain relief. In a British study that seems like a hybrid of interrogation techniques and slumber party antics, college students were asked to immerse a hand into cold water. They were timed to see how long they could endure the freezing water. To help focus mentally, the students were allowed to chant either a neutral mantra or repeat a swear word over and over again. When cursing, the students were on average able to endure the pain of the cold water for 40 seconds longer and said they felt less pain.

To learn why, just


The connection between expletives and pain relief is not really clear, but a deep and primal part of the brain is activated when swearing, which is not usually activated when speaking. This area of the brain is related to the flight-or-fight response to stress and when activated it increases the heart rate, which makes us less sensitive to pain.

Richard Keele the psychologist that led the study said, "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." Like most things in life, moderation is key for a string of expletives to work as pain management. The more you swear the less potent the pain relief. Do weigh in on your relationship with swearing over on TrèsSugar.

Image Source: Getty
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