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Humor in Lieu of Medication ~ How Laughter Can Ease Your Pain

Updated on July 8, 2011

How bad does it hurt?

If you've ever tangled with chronic pain, you know just how much it can change your life. More than change it. Chronic pain, regardless of its cause, will turn your world upside down. Especially if, prior to the condition, you were any kind of physically active. I'm not just talking about professional athletes here. I'm talking about everyday folks who enjoy stuff like hiking or kayaking or cycling or even the simple early-evening stroll. Chronic pain will put an end to those beautiful activities in a New York second (which, as you know, is much faster than an ordinary second. Everything is faster in New York.)

Despite the rise of holistic and/or naturopathic medicinal practices, the stats still say that more Americans will choose the MD over the herb garden when it comes to chronic pain. Particularly if that pain is the kind that stops you in your tracks. I do not speak of those "little aches and pains" that people are so fond of whining about. I'm talking about the kind of pain that makes you wish you had a gun and the balls to use it. Hard-core, overwhelming, please-kill-me-now pain. About as much fun as a barrel full of rabid badgers.

No thank you very much.

If at first you don't succeed...

So let's say you have this ickiness going on. Perhaps you made the choice (at first) to ixnay the whole pain meds thing and stick to your idealistic holism. You visit your favorite acupuncturist for weeks on end, lying on the table with lovely visions romping through your head. You focus on your breathing. You slow it way down and imagine you're breathing through your knee caps. You just know it's going to work. A month later (and several hundred dollars lighter), you realize the needles aren't doing the trick.

Next stop: herbal remedies and Qi Gong lessons. The Chinese people and their awe-inspiring medicinal knowledge banks couldn't possibly be wrong after so many thousands of years, right? You study up, buy the books, do the research, sign up for the classes, plant a half acre's worth of herbs whose names you can't pronounce, and sing songs to the seedlings as you wait with great eagerness for your crop to manifest. When the strange looking flora is finally ripe for the pickin', you gather up your goodies, grab your 25 pound tome of recipes, and commence with the grinding, mixing, chanting, visualizing, burning, blending, etc., ad nauseam.

A week later, you're lying in bed, headphones whispering the mantra: "I am well My body knows how to heal itself. I am well. My body knows how to heal itself....", with tears rolling down your face and a knot in your stomach the size of a Georgia watermelon. (FYI: Cordele, GA is the watermelon capital of the world. Says so right there on the sign when you drive into town. AND...I've been there. Best damn watermelon you'll ever eat!)

At last, you drift off to sleep, determined to awaken rested, refreshed and pain-free.

And then...morning dawns to find you in just as much pain as you were before you drank that nasty potion.

WHUT THE......???

Comedy Central

By now you've exhausted every imaginable resource in an effort to manage the pain. You've also kept your promise to stay off the Vicadin. But the pain is getting worse and you're on your last nerve with the whole ugly mess. You haven't been out of the house for weeks. You've graciously declined all invitations, knowing full well that you're going to feel like crap if you go so you might as well not. The doorbell rings. You aren't expecting anyone because you've pretty much checked out of the whole social scene. You open the door to find your darling sister holding a basket of food, a bottle of wine and a DVD. She is not taking no for an answer.

After a few minutes of the usual chit chat, she lays out the spread, pours the wine and pops the video into the player. It is your numero-uno-favorito-funniest-movie-of-all time. (you get to pick. "My Cousin Vinny" and "Arthur" are among my top two). You've seen the movie at least a hundred times. You know every line by heart. You could do the entire movie (of characters) all by yourself. Still, it makes you crack up the whole time you're watching. The laughter turns into a full-blown giggle fit...with both of you holding your bellies and wiping tears from your eyes. Two full hours of non-stop laughter. And then it hits you: I DON'T FEEL THE PAIN!!! THERE IS NO PAIN!!! HOLY JOE PESCI, I CAN'T BELIEVE IT!

When you realize your body has been pain-free for those 2 hours, you get those all-over-your-body goose bumps and wonder if your sister spiked the wine. You ask. She laughs. And then you sit there musing over the whole crazy thing. Could it be true? Could it be that I can laugh my way to wellness? Could it be that the meds were right here inside me all along?

Kinda like Dorothy and her Ruby Red Slippers.

The physiology of laughing?

{Before I go further, I'd like to share a little something about the way I write, so that you may more fully understand why I leave out the "statistics". I don't much buy into statistics; mostly because I know that when such things are presented (to us 'laymen') the numbers "they" speak of are so puny it'd blow your mind. How do I know this? Because I've done more research in the past 4 years than most Doctoral candidates do on the quest for their PhDs. I kid you not. So...I while I may not post said statistics, it does not mean I haven't done my homework. Just thought you should know.}

Having said that, there are a few things that I trust to be truth (mostly because I've felt them in my own body; also because of the hundreds (and hundreds) of books, medical journals, etc., that I've read on the subject. I like in "show me, don't tell me". And I'm not even from Missouri.

Here are the "facts" as I have learned them:

  • Reduction of stress hormones: Laughter reduces at least four of the neuroendocrine hormones associated with stress response. These are epinephrine, cortisol, dopac, and growth hormone.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural pain-killers. It also produces a general feeling of well-being (oh. big surprise there, huh?)
  • Immune response: studies show that laughter raises the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boosts the immune cells as well.
  • Laughter increases ventilation and aids in clearing mucus plugs. It also accelerates the exchange of residual air, increasing blood oxygen levels.

There are many other benefits, both physiological and psychological. If you want a more academic reading, you can find a terrific article on the link below.

The Physiological Benefits of Laughter

The Verdict ~

It all boils down to this: no matter what your beliefs or your chosen medicinal preferences, humor and a good, long belly laugh will make you feel a ton better. Scientists have been studying this for a few decades. And they're finally putting it out there: if you can make yourself laugh for a few minutes at a time, throughout your day, you WILL feel better. Not surprisingly, it has also been proven over and over again that the human body does respond to laughter. Healthy cells kill off toxic cells. Enzymes, hormones, and various other healing chemicals kick it up a notch and spread through the body to fight the toxins that are causing the dis-ease. Little by little, just the act of laughing can (and will!) help your body regain its balance. No more pain. No more depression. No more missing out on your Life.

Please don't take my word for it. If you're ailing, regardless of what the malady may be, just give it a try. There are lots and lots of **articles**, medical journals, books, and even videos that attest to these findings. But the only way you'll ever know for sure is by doing it yourself. Try it for a week. See what happens. At the very least, you'll have spent a few hours laughing instead of hurting. How can that not be a good thing?


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    • camsolivia profile image

      Camille Olivia Strate 6 years ago from Planet Earth

      thank you, Simone! glad you liked it. Keep grinnin'!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm a huge believer in the power of laughter, camsolivia! Great Hub!

    • UFO Alien profile image

      UFO Alien 6 years ago from Area 51, Roswell, Over Manhattan, China and SPACE

      There is great advice here. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.