Science says acting like a baby is a natural painkiller

Studies suggest that crying, whining, and acting like a baby actually helps the body soothe itself. Your kid may be on to something.

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Many parents have used the phrase, “If you’re going to act like a baby, I’ll treat you like one,” and science suggests that that actually might be the key to killing pain. They may not be the toughest types of people, but there’s evidence that babies might have the best strategies for managing pain and discomfort. Crying, whining, and other audible expressions of anguish not only help babies call for help, but also make people of any age feel better. So if your back hurts, the following studies make a scientific case for being a baby about it.


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Saying “ow!” is a natural painkiller

When researchers submerged 56 adults’ hands in ice water, they found that participants were able to tolerate the pain much longer if they vocalized it. “A simple vocal act such as saying ‘ow’ helps individuals cope with pain. Participants tolerated a noxious stimulus longer when vocalizing than when being silent,” study authors wrote in The Journal of Pain. Scientists suspect that the results aren’t limited to the word “ow” or buckets of ice water, but that there’s something about a person broadcasting their pain that makes it more tolerable.

Making other noises of distress helps, too

Audible sounds might help to reduce pain because in order to make noises people need to use muscles that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Muscles that raise the lower ribs and help to produce sound might also be instrumental in moderating pain, research suggests. Other studies indicate that deep breathing can also activate these muscles in order to make aches and pains more manageable. Still, it’s so much more fun to scream.