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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Staff Writer
November 29, 2012

Laugh The Pain Off, Study Recommends

Research shows that an awesome throw-your-head-back fit of laughter can ease physical pain. By Charlene J. Owen

Apparently, a good hearty laugh is all you need to feel good and decrease pain response. It’s all about endorphins, a pain-inhibiting hormone that the body releases when exercising.

The study, conducted by evolutionary psychology professor Robin Dunbar, PhD from Oxford University, aimed to see if there is a connection between laughter in a social setting and pain response. This study was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and posted at NBCNews.com. Scientists involved in the study ran several experiments, all within a social setting, because laughter is 30 times more likely to happen when you’re with other people than when you're alone.

The laughter measured in this study is not the polite chuckle kind of laugh, but more of the hearty or rib-tickling kind. Participants were divided into two groups: one was assigned to watch comedies ranging from episodes of South Park and Friends to Mr. Bean and The Simpsons, while the other group were made to watch documentaries on golf, pet training, or the environment. Pain-inducing activities like tightening a blood pressure cuff or placing a frozen wine cooler sleeve on the forearm were experienced by the participants before and after watching the said videos.

The researchers found out that those who watched the comedies and laughed had higher pain tolerance than those who watched the documentaries.  And it was not just because of better moods--it was the laughter itself that boosted pain tolerance.

Higher pain tolerance could help out in patients with chronic pain cope with their illness until they recovered.  Endorphins increase our body’s immune system as well, helping us fight back sickness faster.

"No doubt the pharmaceutical companies won't like it, but laughter would save on hospital bills," Professor Dunbar joked when asked if laughter is indeed the best medicine, especially for pain-related illnesses.

So keep that good sense of humor; the ability to laugh at the face of pain may just be what cures it.

(Photo by Dahl-Face Photography via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Charlene J. Owen
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