by: Deborah Chaves

Did you know that swearing can actually be beneficial? Dr. Mary C. Neal, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and author of “To Heaven and Back” thinks so. After drowning, going to Heaven and coming back, she  breaks her ankle in a skiing accident while out in a remote area where there is no immediate help. Dr. Neal decides the only way out is to hike out and says the two hour trip back was “accompanied by a lifetime’s worth of cursing.” Her account of the cursing is described here: “As an interesting side note, I had recently read a study by Stephens, Atkins and Kingston in which they evaluated swearing as a response to pain (NeuroReport, August 5, 2009; volume 20, issue 12; 1056-60). In the study, two sets of data were collected based on how long volunteers were able to keep their arm submersed in ice water, a known pain stimulator, while either a commonplace word to describe a table or shouting the profanity of their choice. The authors found that volunteers had a significantly greater pain tolerance when using the profanity of their choice. As I hiked the distance to our car, I performed my own personal experiment. I tried yelling words like “snow” and “tree” or yelling different profanities. In the end, I agreed wholeheartedly with the results of Stephens’ study.”

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