Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Swearing Increases Pain Tolerance

If you, for example, break your arm from a fall, what is your first reaction to the events transpired?  You could scream ‘Ow!’ or curse and swear after the pain becomes noticeable and hard to bear.  It turns out swearing can have the purpose of increasing pain tolerance in people.
There are not that many assumptions about it.  However, it is assumed that the swearing triggers the fight or flight response in us.   It is also assumed that swearing also reduces pain.
There is information that swearing triggers emotional and physical responses.  It has been around for centuries and occurs in various cultures.    It is also known that:
Swearing taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain.”
A study, by Dr. Stephens, was done with 64 undergraduate volunteers.  The volunteers had to write down 5 words they use when in pain after running into a table and five words they would use to describe the table.  They then had to put their hands in a bucket of ice cold water for a prolonged period of time; they first could repeat any swear word of their choice, then switching to a word they used to describe the table.  Results showed that the volunteers could keep their hands submerged in the cold water for longer periods of time when they were repeating the swear word, showing a noticeable link between pain and increasing pain tolerance.
I could only find one study.  I first came across this from the TV show Mythbusters.  From my point of view, it would make sense that swearing reduces pain.  Whenever I injure myself by running into a wall or table, or even burn myself, I curse and swear like nobody’s business.  I guess, since I am so focused on cursing, I don’t really notice the pain after a few seconds.  I definitely believe more research should be done on this subject to truly confirm that swearing increases.


  1. Think about how many people curse when they hurt themselves. I think it works, from experience.

  2. I agree! I think swearing keeps your mind off the actual pain. You lose focus and the pain becomes small. I also believe that swearing can increase people's fight or flight responses.

  3. I also believe in this philosophy. A lot of people swear when in pain. I find that it really does help when I am in pain. If I say something to myself it can take my mind off of the pain and helps me relax almost. It doesn't have to be out loud but it does still have an effect.