The next time you let a string of expletives rip in front of a disapproving audience, try this excuse: Swearing, it seems, is actually a powerful painkiller.
In that study, 67 students were asked to hold their hands in a tub of cold water for as long as they could while repeatedly swearing, Scientific American reports. On average, they were able to last 40 seconds longer than when they repeated the exercise without swearing.
"How swearing achieves its physical effects is unclear," Scientific American states, "but the researchers speculate that brain circuitry linked to emotion is involved."
Now, according to the Los Angeles Times, "...the latest presentation [of that information] has been adjusted, tweaked and repackaged and is ... eliciting a fresh round of headlines."
Indeed, at a conference in Glasgow in early May, researchers Dr. Richard Stephens and Claudeia Umland are slated to "unveil" the finding that "frequent daily swearers were not able to withstand the icy water for just ten seconds longer, compared to when they did not swear," The Daily Mail reports.
Dr. Stephens has said that a key message from this latest study is that people can overuse swearing, thus diminishing its possible pain-reduction benefits.
Swearing as a response to pain might be beneficial, [but] there is evidence that if you swear too often in everyday situations the power of swearing won't be there when you really might need it.
So should you pooh-pooh pain relievers in favor of a good old' swear? Not yet, Stephens has said:
While I wouldn't advocate the prescription of swearing as part of a medicalized pain management strategy, our research suggests that we should be tolerant of people who swear while experiencing acute pain.
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