Turns out that using swear words out loud during pain actually does help. Swearing could significantly increase a person’s pain tolerance – but only if real swear words are used, and not the G-rated versions that mimic them, claims a new study.

The experts at the Keele University in the United Kingdom pointed out that this is the first study ever to assess whether novel 'swear' words have any pain-relieving effects. The findings revealed that, even though new swear words were rated as funny and emotion arousing, they didn’t help relieve pain.

“This new finding confirms that it's not the surface properties of swear words, such as how they sound, that underlie the beneficial effects of swearing, but something much deeper, probably linked back to childhood as we learn swear words growing up," UPI quoted Richard Stephens, the study’s lead author and a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, U.K.

The Study:

92 people who took part in the study were asked to immerse their hand in a frigid tub of water kept at an icy constant of about 3–5°C as long as they could bear it.

During such an ordeal, the participants’ heart rates were monitored. They were asked to randomly repeat one of the four words every three seconds to find out if it had any effects on their pain perception and endurance levels.

The list of words included the conventional swear word 'f*ck,' a neutral word like 'table' or 'solid,' and two other made-up novel swear words that were designed specifically for the experiment 'fouch' and 'twizpipe.'

Key Findings:

  • Although the new swear words partially resembled the attention-modulating impacts of actual swear words, they failed to influence pain perception
  • Conventional swear words did reduce pain perception
  • Saying 'F*ck' was associated with a 32% increase in pain threshold and a 33% increase in pain tolerance
  • While there is no clarity yet as to how real swear words gain their power, the researchers opine that since people learn swearing during childhood, the aversive classical conditioning might influence the emotional arousing aspects of using swear words

"This suggests that how and when we learn conventional swear words is an important aspect of how they function,” said the researchers in their paper published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Repeating real swear words can help dull pain: study Joshuamiranda, Pixabay