Another study has confirmed what many of us already know: A few strategically placed "f*cks" can really help alleviate the pain of that toe you just stubbed.
This study comes courtesy of Richard Stevens of Keele's School of Psychology, and has just appeared in the American Journal of Pain. The findings, as reported in that amazingly titled magazine, show that pain tolerance is indeed increased by swearing - but only if the person in pain is not used to cursing like a drunken sailor.
His research was conducted by using an ice-water challenge, a classic test of pain tolerance where part of the subject is subjected to incredibly cold water and is judged based on their ability to withstand that type of pain.
He found that among those who reported swearing only a few times a day, the time that they could keep their hands submerged in the ice bath doubled when they employed a couple of naughty phrases.
But when people who reported frequent swearing (60 times a day or more) tried to use the expletives to increase their pain tolerance - nothing really happened. Their swearing had no effect on the amount of time they could keep their hands in the ice bath.
The simple takeaway: Swearing helps- but only if you are merely a casual user of bad language in your everyday life.
From The Independent:
The mechanism, the scientists say, is simple, swearing elicits an emotional response leading to what is termed "stress-induced analgesia", also known as the "fight or flight" response, along with a surge of adrenalin.
Frequent swearers can utter profanities without feeling an emotional response,and thus do not get the same pain-relieving effects. So, it seems, swearing lightly in one's daily routine can help in the occasional, stressful situation
This isn't great news for me - according to the study I receive absolutely no benefit from breaking out the bad words when I cut myself shaving or something. Although this knowledge probably won't stop me from sounding like an episode of The Wire every time it happens.
This study corroborates another incredibly scientific study - the one performed by the Mythbusters in 2010. They also confirmed the myth that swearing increases pain tolerance through the ice bath test. Here's some footage of my favorite mythbuster taking part in the experiment: