Prescription for Pain: Laugh Until it Doesn't Hurt
Credit: Darren Baker | Dreamstime

LOL! A new study finds that laughter raises our tolerance for pain by stimulating a release of the brain's feel-good compounds, endorphins.

Researchers at the University of Oxford in England asked study participants to watch either a funny video or a factual documentary, and tested their tolerance for pain by holding either a frozen object against their skin or putting their arm in a blood-pressure cuff inflated to a painfully high pressure.

They found that participants' pain tolerance was significantly higher after they watched a funny video than after they watched a neutral video.

To make sure that it was laughter itself not the general positive feeling a person might get from watching a comedy the researchers also had the participants watch a nonhumorous positive video. They found that only the funny video reduced the participants' pain tolerance.

We're not the only animals who laugh other apes also do which suggests that laughter is important beyond its role in social bonding , the researchers wrote, but until now, it was not known exactly how laughter produces its pain-dampening effect.

Fake laughter won't have this effect though, the study said. Because relaxed, unforced laughter is socially driven and emotional, it prompts the release of endorphins that just doesn't come when you politely snicker at your boss' s joke.

Pass it on: Laughter raises our tolerance for pain.

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