It’s no joke being stuck in a hospital bed.
But it seems that the old adage is true – laughter really is the best medicine.
It is likely to put you on the road to recovery more quickly than any hi-tech treatment, simply by increasing your circulation, researchers have found.
A five-year study of patients with leg ulcers has established that a hearty chuckle stimulates the diaphragm which, in turn, plays a vital part in moving blood around the body.
It actually speeds recovery from leg ulcers, said the report by the University of Leeds’ School of Healthcare.
In contrast, expensive ultrasound therapy does little to help, contrary to what the researchers had expected to find.
Traditional nursing care is also effective and this human contact is likely to lead to jokes and banter which is where the laughter therapy comes in.
The research, published by the British Medical Journal, said: ‘Forget technology. The best prescription for patients with venous leg ulcers is good quality nursing care and the occasional belly laugh!’
About 500,000 people suffer from recurrent leg ulcers in the UK. They are common in those with varicose veins or mobility problems and the condition is becoming more common with increased obesity.
The older and larger ulcers become, the harder they are to get rid of, hence the search for solutions that could speed the healing process.
A number of small studies had suggested that ultrasound could be the answer.
Professor Andrea Nelson, who led the study, said: ‘The key to care with this group of patients is to stimulate blood flow back up the legs to the heart.
‘The best way to do that is with compression bandages and support stockings not “magic wands” – coupled with advice on diet and exercise.
‘Believe it or not, having a really hearty chuckle can help too. This is because laughing gets the diaphragm moving and this plays a vital part in moving blood around the body.’
Complicated leg ulcers can take six months or more to heal. Ultrasound therapy did not speed this up – but did add an average of £200 per patient to their care bill.
Previous studies have shown laughter can ward off heart disease. Loma Linda University in California studied men and women taking medication for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Those who were prescribed ‘mirthful laughter’ in the form of 30 minutes of comedy every day found their stress hormone levels fell.
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