Escaping the Vicious Cycle of Pain

3a Escaping the Vicious Cycle of PainFear has been called debilitating, but can fear truly lead to chronic pain and disability?

In some cases the answer may be yes.

What Does Fear have to do with Pain?

A blog post written by physiotherapist Tim Wideman asks, “…why [do] some of my patients with seemingly similar musculoskeletal injuries recover and why [do] others develop chronic pain and disability?” Could fear be the reason people don’t fully recover and, in fact, fall into worsening health?

Wideman is not the only physiotherapist to ask this question. Several “activity-endorsing rehabilitation professionals” have pursued research studies to find out if fear causes their patients to get stuck in vicious cycles of pain.

Two Types of Fear Plague People in Pain

Sam Bunzli who works in musculoskeletal physiotherapy says there are two types of fear that plague people with chronic pain: some fear they will reinjure themselves by embarking on physical activities while others believe that the pain they feel may be further aggravated by physical activities, thus preventing the individual from completing the day’s (essential) tasks.

Regardless of the type of fear a person in pain faces, the presence of fear may lead him or her to become inactive, which can be linked to several other debilitating conditions. Take, for example, low back pain; research shows that low back pain is often accompanied by fear of movement, as well as depression and anxiety.

Overcoming Fear May Abolish Pain

Several health professionals agree that, under most circumstances, some activity is better than a sedentary lifestyle. If an individual is not moving much throughout the day, his or her muscles could atrophy, which can increase pain and may lead to disease and disability.

But how will people who fear movement embrace a more active lifestyle?

This is where physiotherapists come in. Physiotherapists can help people escape the vicious cycle of pain by prescribing safe, corrective exercises that promote whole-body wellness. Under the care of a knowledgeable professional, people suffering from chronic pain can take on activities that will not provoke further injury or cause pain that gets in the way of daily duties.

Overcoming the obstacle of fear may be the difference between recovery and disability. Embracing activity-endorsing rehabilitation may lead to regaining full strength in both mind and body.

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