Fuck! Shit! Aargh! We’ve all yelled out these words as we stub our toes on a table or cut ourselves with a sharp object. But have you ever wondered why? Is it just because you like to swear too much or is there a scientific explanation for it? Well, recent studies show that not only does swearing help to relieve immediate physical pain, it also helps to relieve emotional stress as well. Swearing in response to pain may activate the amygdala which in turn triggers a fight-or-flight response. This then leads to a surge in adrenaline, a natural form of pain relief. The only caveat to this is that if you’re the type to swear too often during regular activities, the swearing loses its effects as an effective pain reliever. So swear if you have to, just don’t do it every second of every day.
Scientists at Keele University conducted a study into if swearing reduces pain and if so how it works. They had a bunch of people put their fists in an ice bucket to test their pain threshold and tolerance. They devised four words that could be used as coping mechanisms by the participants. The first; a neutral word like ‘solid’, the other two were ‘made up’ swear words namely: ‘twizpipe’ and ‘fouch’, and the last was our good friend ‘fuck’. Each participant experimented four times each while using a different word and the order was randomized by the researchers to not provide inaccurate results. The researchers measured their pain threshold by timing how long it took them to begin to feel pain. Their pain tolerance was determined by how long they were able to keep their hands in the freezing water.
Quite unsurprisingly, ‘fuck’ proved the most resilient of all the words in terms of not just reducing the pain felt but increasing the duration for which participants could endure the pain. The study also helped to rule out distraction as a reliable pain relief mechanism. Twizpipe and fouch were able to elicit humorous and emotional responses but were not able to help deal with the pain.
So there you have it. Now you know why you swear whenever you’re in intense pain or shock. And you don’t have to feel bad about doing it anymore. Just remember not to do it all the time because, like most good things, it loses its value when overused.