Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Day 449 - Swearing

"That muttered curse word that reflexively comes out when you stub your toe could actually make it easier to bear the throbbing pain, a new study suggests. Swearing is a common response to pain, but no previous research has connected the uttering of an expletive to the actual physical experience of pain.

"Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon," said Richard Stephens of Keele University in England and one of the authors of the new study. "It 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."

Stephens and his fellow Keele researchers John Atkins and Andrew Kingston sought to test how swearing would affect an individual's tolerance to pain. Because swearing often has an exaggerating effect that can overstate the severity of pain, the team thought that swearing would lessen a person's tolerance. As it turned out, the opposite seems to be true.

The researchers enlisted 64 undergraduate volunteers and had them submerge their hand in a tub of ice water for as long as possible while repeating a swear word of their choice. The experiment was then repeated with the volunteer repeating a more common word that they would use to describe a table.

Contrary to what the researcher expected, the volunteers kept their hands submerged longer while repeating the swear word. The researchers think that the increase in pain tolerance occurs because swearing triggers the body's natural “fight-or flight” response. Stephens and his colleagues suggest that swearing may increase aggression (seen in accelerated heart rates), which downplays weakness to appear stronger or more macho. "Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists," Stephens said."*

I have not posted for a while as the headache has been at its best for the past few weeks - up until a few days ago. I got a bit of a cold and since then the headache seems to have partly shifted to the left hand side which is proving to be a complete and utter nightmare as I am not used to the pain being there. I can’t even seem to be able to figure out what level out of 10 it is as the pain has never been on the left hand side for so long.

The other day, when it first moved about, I had a headache on top of the headache. That was a bit of a nightmare - it’s incredible what the body can get used to, and how one can feel two headaches simultaneously. It’s hard to explain unless you have experienced it first hand. I am sure that before the headache started I would not have been able to imagine experiencing two headaches concurrently.

And, once again, I forgot how bad the headache was - when it subsides you can never really picture how forceful the pain had previously been.

I also woke up a few days ago with an unbelievable pain in my teeth and jaw. I felt as if I had spent the night furiously grinding my teeth (I still regularly wear the mouth guard I was given by the dentist one year ago) - not sure if it was due to the headache pain, or possibly just a bad nightmare. Rather odd though as I woke up with my teeth and gums in complete agony. This makes me think the headache could be related to the jaw, but I have had that tested on various occasions and it doesn’t seem to be that..

Let’s just hope all the pain moves back to the right as I feel I am able to cope with it much better when it’s on that side - I guess, once again, it just goes to show how used to pain we become. Maybe I should just swear more to make the pain more tolerable, as the study above seems to suggest.