Thursday, January 17, 2013

Got Pain? Laugh it Away

Wait just a minute. Can you really control pain by laughing?  That seems too simple.

Robin Dunbar, a study researcher at the University of Oxford, and several colleagues set out to determine if the endorphin rush that laughter provides increases our tolerance for pain. They tested study participants for their pain tolerance, exposed them to both control and laughter-inducing tests, and then measured pain levels again.  “Across all tests, the participants' ability to tolerate pain jumped after laughing.”

From an article on, medical experts in the United States found laughter helped children relax, which had a major impact on how they dealt with and accepted pain. They believe the healing power of humor can reduce pain and stimulate immune function in children with cancer, diabetes, or AIDS and in children receiving organ transplants and bone marrow treatments.
Dr Margaret Stuber, who led the research, said, "We think laughter could be used to help children who are undergoing painful procedures or who suffer from pain-expectation anxiety. In the future, patients watching humorous videos could become a standard component of some medical procedures."
The US study, Rx Laughter, is a collaboration between the entertainment industry, pediatrics, and psychiatry.  They asked 21 children aged eight to fourteen to put their hand into cold water and found the whole group tolerated the temperature longer while watching a funny video. Those who laughed most remembered less of the pain and tests showed their stress levels were lower after laughing.
My friend, Beth, proved this in her own life when giving birth to her first baby (the ultimate test of pain tolerance).  “They wouldn’t let me push yet,” she said, “but the pain was unbearable. Then my husband turned on the TV and found a funny movie. As long as I was laughing, the labor pains didn’t feel half as intense. Miraculously, when the credits at the end of the movie rolled on the screen, the nurse said, “you can push now.”  I later told my husband, “Next time we have a baby, we’re gonna come prepared with the funniest movies we can find, to get us through labor!”
I don’t recommend having a baby to test if laughter increases your tolerance for pain. But it couldn’t hurt to pop in a funny movie or hang out with a goofy friend next time you twist your ankle or stub your toe.
What makes you laugh? What is your favorite funny movie?
P.S. Don't forget to enter the drawing for a free copy of Jan Cline's debut book, A Heart Out of Hiding. Contest ends midnight, Saturday, January 19. Scroll down to post for January 10 for rules, please.