Cursing Aids in Pain Management, Ineffective If Overused

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Cursing has always been considered as something negative in society. Who would have thought that this actually has some benefits into it? According to researchers, cursing can provide a short term relief to pain, but not if frequently used. The people, who do not make a habit out of it, have been observed to derive a greater effect from it. On the November 14 online issue of Journal of Pain, Richard Stephens and Claudia Umland from the School of Psychology at the University of Keele in the UK presented their discovery of utilizing cursing to reduce pain.

In 2009, Stephens cited in his study that people were able to endure the ice-cold water challenge longer if they repetitively said swear-words than if they only repeated a neutral word. However, in this latest study, people’s swearing habits were taken into account.

It was discovered by the researchers that people who admitted that they used swear-words constantly everyday, with a rate of 60 per day, experienced no benefit during the ice-water challenge than from simply saying neutral words. On the other hand, those who just swore a few times a day, were able to tolerate the ice-cold water challenged twice as long as when they uttered swear-words than when they only used neutral words.

The researchers elaborated that the people were able to tolerate pain because it produces an emotional response, like anger or aggression, on the swearer. This results to a natural form of pain relief, called “stress-induced analgesia”, as an effect of the surge of adrenalin during the body’s natural fight or flight response. Furthermore, those people who curse a lot experience a form of “habituation” in that certain emotion which leads to its weaker effect in reducing pain.

Stephens, a senior psychology lecturer, said that since cursing is a very emotive form of language, its over-use can lead to a lesser emotional effect. He further explained that cursing can be utilized as an alternative pain-reliever, especially during times when you do not have easy access to pain killers or medical interventions.

The study shows strong evidence in the relationship of swearing and pain tolerance, but it does not give light on the actual mechanisms behind it. It is known that language activates the cortex, which is an outer layer of the brain; however, swearing seems to have an effect on the deeper levels that are closely related to emotions.

Stephens believed that they are just starting to shed light in the relationship of cursing to emotional response, and how its impact varies in different situations.  Their research team has already found out that swearing appears to be a simple form of emotional self-management, in the context of pain.  They are even more eager to explore if swearing has also beneficial effects in other contexts. Indeed, this is just a beginning to new and more breakthroughs in managing pain.



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