With the exception of the cynics and the truly miserable people who fail to find any amusement in life, everyone loves to laugh! We seek out funny movies, memes, and comedians that will have us rolling in the aisles and smiling to ourselves at any time of day. We laugh until we cry, and sometimes, we even laugh so hard that our bladder gets hard to control! Clearly, laughter has a lot of effects on us, and we’re willing to deal with them because the pleasure we get from a good, hearty laugh is such a wonderful feeling!
However, one of the strangest reactions to laughter is when your stomach starts to hurt after a period of heavy, extended laughter. Why is that?
Laugh so hard it hurts!
You feel an ache in your stomach when you laugh extremely hard due to the rapid exercising of the diaphragm (below the lungs and just above the stomach). When you chortle or giggle, i.e. when the laughter does not have a high intensity, then there is no excess strain on the diaphragm, so it continues to function at its normal rate.
Getting A Real Workout
However, the moment your giggle turns into a guffaw, the diaphragm tenses up and gets a solid workout. It forces out the air that is all the way at the bottom of the lungs, which is why laughter is such a good aerobic exercise.
However, that’s not the whole story. You have almost certainly noticed that if you laugh really hard, you may end up wetting your pants – just a little bit. You can admit it… we’ve all been there. Again, this is because when you laugh very hard, your abdominal muscles contract, which forces any fluid stored in your bladder downwards through the sphincter muscle, which is usually contracted and holds in the urine. However, when your body is tensing and squeezing and reacting and laughing and crying all at the same time during a particularly funny movie, it may be hard to keep control of everything.
In other words, don’t worry when your sides start to ache after a hearty bout of laughing. There is nothing wrong with your stomach; you’re essentially just giving yourself an amusing workout.
- Journal of Applied Physiology
- University of California – Riverside
- University of Maryland Medical Centre