Okay all you moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, please stop telling your little ones to “brush it off” or “don’t cry” when they get hurt. Be honest, we have all done it and worse, sometimes we even say, “quit being a baby!” I know, we are terrible people, but recent research has actually shown that crying, screaming cursing (yes cursing), or simply yelling “ow” when you get hurt reduces the amount of pain we perceive. Why you ask? Because when we cry out, it activates the motor system and allows these other muscles to moderate pain.
Researchers also found a decrease in pain sensation when people hear their own voice, as it acts like an analgesic and empowers us the vocal feedback which makes us feel in control. That said, unlike other forms of vocalization, screams have been found to be routed through the amygdala (the place where emotions and pain are modulated). Because this is the part of the brain where pain and the ability to produce sound reside, we can’t experience both at the same time.
So, the next time you are hurt, try screaming, cursing, moaning, and groaning, tapping your fingers or toes, or deep breathing and see if it helps. Support your friends, family and residents who are on a chronic pain journey and encourage them to try this technique. Obviously, if everyone in your center began screaming expletives you might need to tell them to “brush it off” instead! Bottom line, pain is real and individual, no two people will experience pain the same way OR have relief from the same remedies. As providers of care for a frail, elderly population, it is our responsibility to assess our residents for pain, provide pain relieving interventions and support them. Stay the course and stay well!