Lessen cycle-related pain with a single word

Lessen cycle-related pain with a single word

painEver try to keep a stiff upper lip and suffer in silence when you’ve got menstrual cycle-related pain–such as period cramps, headaches or back aches?

Not me. No way. I’m a BIG whiner from waaaay back. Just ask my poor husband who’s forced to endure my wails.

Well, turns out, my approach to pain management is the smarter one!

That’s the news from a just-released study in the Journal of Pain that shows vocalizing your pain–in other words, saying out loud “Ow!” or whatever pain word you prefer–actually lowers your perception of pain, decreasing your discomfort.

They discovered this by asking 56 hapless study volunteers to stick their hand in a bucket of icy water. Which, if you’ve ever done just for the heck of it, really hurts really fast. (Anyone who’s slipped and fallen into a pile of winter slush and gotten soaking wet–my hand’s up!–will know this pain all too well.)

Anyway, the researchers repeated this hand-dunking experiment five different times while asking the volunteers to do a variety of actions when they felt pain, including pressing a button, listening to a recording of themselves shouting “Ow!”, listening to a recording of someone else shouting “Ow!”, sitting passively doing nothing and, of course, shouting “Ow!” themselves.

Only when they were able to yelp “Ow!” did the pain become more bearable, enabling them to withstand the icy chill five full seconds longer. Which in hand-in-ice-bucket seconds is akin to about five weeks.

So, what is it about shouting about your pain that makes it less intense?

The researchers theorize that making a vocal sound somehow interferes with pain signals sent to the brain.

If (I’m betting when) you try this and someone asks why you’re being such a whiner, you can confidently tell them it’s a science-backed analgesic. And, then ratchet up your noise a little more. It’s medicinal!

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[Photo: Steven Depolo]

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