Have you ever unexpectedly stubbed your toe on a chair and turned the air around you blue with your language? Well, this week researchers revealed that there is a reason why a lot of us swear when we feel pain, it offers some relief. That’s right, dropping the f-word can help increase your tolerance to pain by up to a third.
How did scientists discover this you might ask? A panel of experts, including senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University Dr Richard Stephens; language expert Dr Emma Byrne; and lexicographer Jonathon Green employed real and made-up swear words to explore how effective they were in increasing our pain tolerance and threshold.
‘Twizpipe’ and ‘fouch’ were created by the experts as they were deemed socially acceptable, but sounded similar to existing swear words and could offer a similar emotional connection. As part of the study volunteers had their arms submerged in ice cold water to test their pain tolerance. However, neither of the made-up swear words were nearly as effective as the f-bomb when it came to increasing pain tolerance.
“It seems that swearing has a strong emotional connection, and this is likely due to the circumstances in which we first hear the swear words,” says Dr Stephens. “From a young age we typically learn to associate them with high-stress situations and that they are forbidden.”
While the two made-up swear words might have made you smile when you read them, they didn’t cut the mustard when it came to pain relief. So much so, “The volunteers rated the emotional impact of the f-word, as one and a half times more emotional than the new words,” Dr Stephens revealed.
But what if blurting out the f-word isn’t an option? Or, what if the pain is more ongoing rather than a quick stub of the toe? It might be worth keeping a pot of PEA Discomfort Relief by Life Extension in your desk drawer or handbag to help alleviate pain. These clever, berry flavoured chewable supplements contain palmitoylethanolamide, which is a compound naturally produced by your body that helps to turn off the pain signals in the localised area. PEA Discomfort Relief doesn’t have any side effects and is non-addictive – and definitely more socially acceptable than the f-word in the office.