Scream in pain. It's worth the gain!

Next time you bump your toe or cut your finger feel free to shout, swear or scream. New studies show that expressing ones pain vocally allows for the feeling of pain to be lessened.

Naked Scientist Chris Smith spoke to Cape Talk’s John Maytham about a study that investigated the benefits of shouting through pain.

The study, which was published in The Journal of Pain by the National University of Singapore, utilized fifty six volunteers to experiment with varying degrees of pain.

It does not matter what language or culture a person is from, the expression of pain through words is universal.

The response of shouting out when in pain can be seen as both a comfort, a recognition of the pain and a warning to others. It is a comfort because it is a recognition of ones pain by others and ones self, much like the rubbing of a painful thumb or toe.

A person’s experience of pain is very subjective and it differs from one person to another, and it differs between what people are doing.

Chris Smith

In 1950, two British Scientists, Ron Melzack and Patrick Wall spoke about the Gate Control Theory of Pain. The theory centers on the psychology of pain and how perception, thought and emotion influence the pain receptors throughout the brain and spine.

When people rub their thumb when they've hit it with a hammer, what your actually doing is you’re rubbing the thumb and stimulating the nerve cells that normally convey fine touch, that light stroking sensation and by stimulating those nerve cells they actually feed back to the spinal cord and they inhibit the pain pathways corresponding to your thumb in the spinal cord. So when we rub things better we actually do it for a reason, we’re switching off the pain pathways corresponding to that part of the body and again making the pain less unendurable.

Chris Smith

This is how Ron Melzack explained his theories on pain.

The results from this latest study have certainly been thought-provoking. There threshold for pain is monitored without particpant's knowledge and the volunteers are either allowed to shout out or have to remain silent.

It was noted that an average of thirty seconds was the most people could endure before the pain became too much. Others that were allowed to use expletives and express their pain could endure an extra 5 seconds of pain!

The reason they argue this happens, is that consciousness and our attention, is a bit like the theater, the stage is set and the actors roll onto stage but there is a spotlight that is focused on one person or its drawing your attention to one bit of action on stage. It doesn't mean the rest of the stage and all the actors have disappeared. The information is still going into your brain but your attention is focused on where that spotlight is. It works the same with pain and other stimuli.

Chris Smith

Smith is of the opinion that vocalization in situations of pain allows the focus to move from the pain to the person’s response and actions in regards to the pain.

If you allow people to create a vocal disturbance, you’re effectively distracting yourself and spotlighting your attention more on what you’re saying and doing in response to the pain than the pain itself and therefore you actually feel better and the pain is not as bad as you had thought.

Chris Smith

So shout out the pain. Scream, rage, curse or just rub it better. One thing is for sure, you will feel better either way!

Listen to John Maytham's chat with Naked Scientist Chris Smith below...


This article first appeared on 702 : Scream in pain. It's worth the gain!


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