Researchers Say Swearing Can Help in Physical Therapy

glass jar filled with coins labeled swear jar

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If you’ve ever used colorful language during a tough physical therapy (PT) session… you have science on your side!

A new study in the Archives of Physiotherapy suggests that in physical therapy environments, more relaxed speech — namely, swearing — can help in a number of ways, including pain reduction.

The research, led by Nicholas B. Washmuth (Department of Physical Therapy, Samford University, Birmingham, Ala.) and Richard Stephens (School of Psychology, Keele University, Staffordshire, U.K.), proposed that language can impact how a physical therapy patient “thinks, feels, and performs… If used correctly, within a biopsychosocial approach to care, swearing has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes.”

The researchers noted that swearing can help people to bond and can “enhance the therapeutic alliance between a patient and a physical therapist. Improvements in social pain, physical pain tolerance, and physical pain threshold can occur by strategic swearing by our patients.

“Even physical performance measures, such as power and force, could be enhanced if patients swear.”

Washmuth and Stephens suggested swearing in the PT environment “should be used to accomplish specific goals, such as relief from pain or stress.” And they noted that swearing aloud “can also increase physical performance,” as shown in other studies.

The study, titled, “Frankly, We Do Give a Damn: Improving Patient Outcomes with Swearing,” was published March 17, 2022. Archives of Physiotherapy is the journal of the Italian Society of Physiotherapy.