Laughter Ups Pain Tolerance, Study Says

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We all know how good it feels to have a hearty laugh, and now a new study suggests that a guffaw can also reduce the feeling of pain.

University of Oxford researchers found that a good laugh is linked with feeling less pain, and it's likely because laughing spurs the body to release feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which can also act as painkillers.

"The causal sequence is laughter triggers endorphin activation," study researcher Dr. Robin Dunbar, of Oxford, told The New York Times.

Scientists conducted several experiments to come to their conclusion, with the number of study participants ranging from 16 to 62.

For one of the experiments, researchers first tested the amount of pain the volunteers could withstand with a blood pressure cuff or frozen wine sleeve, and then split them up into two groups. One group watched 15 minutes of comedy videos, and the other group watched 15 minutes of boring videos (researchers used golfing videos, for example), BBC News reported.

After watching the videos, the researchers found that the people who belly laughed at the videos were able to stand 10 percent more pain than before they watched the videos, BBC News reported. And the people who watched the "boring" videos were less able to withstand pain than the people who watched the funny videos.

The new research was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

This isn't the first study to show that comedy can help people tolerate pain. In a 2007 study in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles researchers also showed that funny videos helped kids tolerate pain for longer, suggesting getting kids to "humorous distraction" could help distract kids when they're undergoing painful procedures.

Laughter's also been shown in past research to boost heart health by lowering blood pressure just as well as cutting salt. One study even showed that laughter could cause the linings of people's blood vessels to expand as much as aerobic exercise or using statins.

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