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Humor may be the best medicine to help children bear pain for longer periods, says a new study.
The study, conducted by UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and Rx Laughter, found that watching comedy shows helped children tolerate pain for longer periods of time.
According to the researchers, humorous distraction could be used in clinical settings to help children and adolescents better handle painful procedures.
Dr. Margaret Stuber, a researcher in the Jonsson Cancer Centre and the first author of the study, and colleagues roped in 18 healthy children, 12 boys in the age group of 7 to 16 years and six girls with a mean age of 12.
The team made participants watch funny classic and contemporary films and television series before, during and after a standardized pain task, while placing their hands in icy cold water.
An ice chest was fitted with a plastic mesh screen to in order to separate crushed ice from a plastic mesh armrest placed in 50-degree water. To prevent local warming, water was circulated through the ice by a pump.
For up to three minutes maximum participants placed a hand in the cold water to a depth of two inches above the wrist. Hands were warmed between tests with warm towels. Researchers took a baseline measure of submersion duration before the video was viewed, a measurement after, and one while participants watched the video.
Results showed that while viewing the funny shows the group had â€˜significantly greater pain tolerance.
Stuber said that the children left their hands in the icy water significantly longer when watching the funny shows.
She added that the researchers recognized participantsâ€™ assessment of the pain and noted submersion times linking it to humor indicators, the number of laughs/smiles and the children’s ratings of how funny the show was for them.
We found that viewing funny videos increased the tolerance of pain for children, but did not change their ratings of the severity of the pain, said Stuber said.
Although they kept their hands in the water longer, they didn’t describe the task as any less painful than when they weren’t watching the videos. However, this may mean that it simply took longer for the pain to become severe enough to remove their hand, she added.
The study is published in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine