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Why saying ‘ow’ might actually help your pain tolerance grow

When you stub your toe, does it make you better to scream “ow?” Most of us are probably raising our hands right now, because you know what? It really does. Now a new study has confirmed it. Vocalizing after a pain really does help to lessen it. That totally explains my childbirth experiences, by the way.

The study from the National University of Singapore looked at people in pain and how they responded. People submerged their hands into painfully cold water four separate times. In each case, participants were asked either to say “ow,” to listen to a recording of a person saying “ow,” to press a button or to remain passive and silent.

The people who vocalized their pain felt less of it.

This falls in the category of things we know without knowing. Am I right? Be honest: When you stub your toe in the dark, don’t you kind of just want to fall to the floor writhing? Add in some loud expletives and you feel better in no time. But what if the baby is asleep? What if you have to whisper your agony? I can guarantee it’s going to hurt that much more.

The fact is, when we scream, we let something out. We release something.

The researchers theorize that the muscle movements required to scream or to push a button may disrupt pain messages as they travel from the location of the injury back to the brain. How cool is that? Our bodies are capable of some pretty amazing things. And the next time I bump my elbow or bang my knee, I am going to give myself permission to yell and say ow all day long. It’s therapeutic, after all!

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