Swearing actually helps you tolerate pain, according to science

We’re all guilty of using the odd swear word when we stub our toes or endure any other kind of  minor (but very painful) accidental injury. For many, it is a way of letting out your frustration. But what if we told you it actually helps ease the pain, too?

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New scientific research has revealed that swearing does indeed help us tolerate pain, hence why it is such a natural reaction for many. In fact, it highlighted that using the the F-word in particular whenever pain strikes, increases pain tolerance by up to a third.

As a result, the study – which was conducted by a team of experts including Keele University’s senior lecturer in psychology, Dr Richard Stephens, language expert and author, Dr Emma Byrne and acclaimed lexicographer Jonathon Green – then went onto explore how effective real and new, made-up swear words are in helping us increase pain tolerance and threshold.

They invented two new ‘socially acceptable’  words for the experiment  ‘twizpipe’ and ‘fouch’ to see if the public could use them in moments of pain as a replacement for swear words. Participants were then invited to test the new words along with a traditional swear word and a control word while their hands were submerged in an ice water bath that tested their pain tolerance and threshold.

The findings showed that the new words did not alleviate pain in the same way traditional swearing did even though participants rated them as emotion evoking and humorous.

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‘It seems that swearing has a strong emotional connection, and this is likely due to the circumstances in which we first hear swear words,’ said Dr Richard Stephens. ‘From a young age we typically learn to associate them with high-stress situations and that they are forbidden.

‘The study found that these strong sentiments cannot be mimicked by newly created swear words.’

He continued: ‘Although the words we created, twizpipe or fouch, were shown to be similar to existing swear words in that they were rated as emotion evoking and humorous, they didn’t cut it when it came to pain relief – repeating the f-word was the best option for increasing tolerance to pain.

‘The volunteers rated the emotional impact of the f-word, as one and half times more emotional than the new words.’