Pain Relief with Laughter

Laugh Your Way to Pain Relief

By Steven Hefferon, CMT, PTA, CPRS

A man rushed into a veterinarian’s office carrying his limp, lifeless dog. The vet examined the animal and told the man the dog was dead. The man asked if there was any way the doctor could revive the dog. The doctor left the room and returned with a cat, who sniffed the dog from head to tail then looked up at the vet and meowed.

“Sorry,” said the doctor. “There’s nothing I can do.”
“Thanks for trying,” said the man with a sigh. “How much do I owe you?”
“Three hundred and fifty dollars,” replied the doctor.
“Three hundred and fifty dollars! Just to tell me my dog is dead?”
“Well,” said the doctor, “it was $50 for the office visit. The other $300 is for the CAT scan.”

Whether the above joke made you laugh or groan, it lightened your mood. And if you had been in pain, many scientists agree, it would have eased the hurt – at least temporarily.

A fresh take on an old idea

The notion that laughter is good for the body has been around for thousands of years – certainly as far back as the Old Testament. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Seventeenth century English physician Dr. Thomas Sydenham remarked, “The arrival of a good clown exercises more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than of twenty asses laden with drugs.” Or as Groucho Marx put it, “A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast.”

How do you get a sweet 80-year-old lady to say the F word? Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell *BINGO*!

The value of laughter in helping to relieve pain began to attract significant attention in the 1980s when Dr. Norman Cousins in his book Anatomy of an Illness described how watching Marx Brother movies and reading humorous books and articles helped him recover from a life-threatening tissue disease.

Cousins made it a point to enjoy a hearty belly laugh several times a day. He claimed that a few minutes of laughter gave him an hour or more of pain-free sleep. As a result, many pain centers around the country began to use humor therapy to reduce the level of pain medication needed by patients.

There was even a movie made about real-life doctor Patch Adams, a physician who was totally committed to making his patients laugh as an essential part of his treatment.

How does laughter reduce pain?

Clinical staff consistently note that the primary benefit of humor therapy is that it serves as a diversionary tactic – that is, it takes a patient’s mind off the pain.

A study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing reported that patients who were told one-liners after surgery and before painful medication was administered perceived less pain when compared to patients who didn’t get a dose of humor as part of their therapy.

Why don’t bunnies make noise when they have sex? Because they have cotton balls.

Another study, this one published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, found that young girls with burns who were shown cartoons during very painful hydrotherapy said they felt less pain than similar patients who were not exposed to cartoons during the same procedure.

A second theory of how laughter helps relieve pain is that it triggers the release of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that can make us feel good.

Natural healing

Around the same time that the Cousins book appeared, the departing editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Franz Ingelfinger, noted that 85 percent of all human illnesses are curable by the body’s own healing system. Building a positive focus in your life – which includes a regular dose of laughter – can play a key role in supporting the body’s ability to do just that.

Laughing, in fact, has been shown to increase the body’s natural killer cells and T-cells, which are types of cells that attack foreign material in our bodies. Laughter also keeps away negative emotions such as anxiety and depression, which tend to weaken the immune system.

Why are they called “hemorrhoids”. They should be called “asteroids”?

Research on stress-related hormones and humor has shown that laughter reduces at least four of the hormones associated with the stress response, including epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone.

Some studies have indicated that laughter improves lung capacity and with improved lung capacity come improved oxygen levels in the blood, thereby alleviating ischemic pain or pain do to lack of oxygen-rich blood.

Internal jogging

According to Dr. William Fry from Stanford University, one minute of laughter is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine. Laughter is a kind of “internal jogging” that exercises our heart and reduces blood pressure in the same way as does standard aerobic exercise. This kind of laughter exercise is well suited to sedentary people and those who are confined to a bed or wheelchair.

What did One saggy boob say to the other saggy boob? If we drop any lower people are gonna think we are nuts!

If you keep the Huh Huh Huh – going for long periods of time and increase the number of times you do it while at the same time shrugging your upper body you will keep the oxygen flowing to the cells that need it and you will be giving what you body need to begin to reduce your pain and speed healing.

And here’s a final fascinating fact: Researchers at St. Paul Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota say that tears of laughter remove toxic substances that normally build up during periods of emotional stress…So, whether you prefer Dirty jokes, Redneck jokes or Funny Photos the Internet has provide us with an unlimited number of resources not to mention the ton of emails that you get from your friends that they think are funny and they just have to send to you for some reason thinking that you have the time to read it and that you have nothing else to do. Maybe just read on a week and see how you feel.

If you do read a joke or see a funny photo and it does put a smile on your face learn to keep that smile going longer and feel how good you feel when you keep your head up and a smile on your face.

Life will always be full of challenges but we should always be driven to seek those thing that give us Joy and Peace, so if a joke can give you 30 seconds of joy, read a joke and keep smiling.

For more laughter Watch This Adorable Baby Video

Filed Under: Back Pain Articles
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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