Swear It Helps: Expletives Aid Pain Relief, Study Shows

Swearing can provide effective relief from pain - but not if people swear many times a day, according to research.

Experts found swearing helped people cope with pain in the short-term but the frequency of swearing played an important role.

Researchers at Keele University's School of Psychology recruited 71 undergraduates who were asked to carry out a cold-water challenge while either repeating a swear word or a non-swear word.

The students put their hand in room temperature water for three minutes to act as a control before plunging it into cold 5C water for as long as they could while repeating their word.

The level of perceived pain together with a change in heart rate were compared while people swore or said their non-swear word.

The group was also asked about how much they swore in daily life and this was analysed together with their level of pain tolerance.

Writing in the Journal of Pain, the authors concluded: "Swearing increased pain tolerance and heart rate compared with not swearing.

"Moreover, the higher the daily swearing frequency, the less was the benefit for pain tolerance when swearing, compared with when not swearing.

"The more often participants reported swearing in daily life, the less extra time they were able to hold their hand in ice cold water when they repeated a swear word, compared with when they repeated a non-swear word."

Dr Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele, said: "People who don't swear very much in daily life can keep their hand in roughly double the amount of time when they swear compared to when they don't swear. But the people who swear the most do not get any extra benefit."