Cussing is thought to help by distracting us and making us less uptight. It may also trigger the body’s natural fight or flight response to stress, which, in turn, dampens pain.
Dr Richard Stephens, senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, Staffs, said: “Swearing is drug-free, calorie-free, cost-free, and side effects-free, so why not try it?”
In tests, people who swore when their hand was put in a bucket of ice-cold water withstood the agony for 40 seconds longer.
The S-word and F-word were used by many of the subjects to good effect.
The study concluded: “If words are the most powerful drug used by mankind, then the physical therapy profession should embrace swearing to change the way our patients think, feel and perform.” The team now aims to see if fruity language helps ease pain during physiotherapy. But the researchers, writing in Archives of Physiotherapy, stressed: “Patients should not swear at the therapist. Verbal aggression appears to lead to a high degree of distress among healthcare workers.
“Many factors will play into whether swearing improves patient outcomes — including the need for clinicians to have excellent relationship skills.”