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Ask the Professionals: Factors that influence pain

Throughout my practice, I often see the same injuries from a variety of patient’s who experience their injury differently. Not only can someone experience pain differently due to the severity of the injury, but there is a biological explanation to why we might see these differences.

Some of these factors that influence our pain perception are mental health, culture, fear of movement and catastrophizing one’s pain.

Catastrophizing about one’s pain is knowingly or unknowingly exaggerating the severity of the injury and its impact.  Over time, this can begin to magnify the threat value of pain stimulus. Individuals can then feel helpless in regards to their pain and the inability to stop the pain. Catastrophizing behaviour can lead to increased pain perception, negative mood, depression and increased disability. 

Cultural beliefs can also create differences in the way we view pain and illness. Some individuals believe when they are injured, their body is damaged and unable to repair. When they begin to think like this, we often see their injuries go from acute to chronic pain. 

Fear of movement is another phenomenon we see often. In this case, the individual is fearful that moving, or doing an action, will hurt them or cause more injury.  In fact, avoiding movement due to fear or worry promotes a lower tolerance for activity and as a result will lead to more pain from less stimuli. Those who avoid movements that may create pain are more likely to have a lower physical activity level, will be more pain sensitive and commonly suffer from depression, as they are more likely to avoid activities that bring them joy. 

One of the main goals of being a massage or physical therapist while providing care for someone with an injury is to create a treatment plan that will educate the client about pain and help guide them through exercises that will encourage a positive experience. Using positive language in regard to what clients are experiencing helps them focus on positive results in their recovery. This will also allow the client to feel confident about their recovery and have a full understanding on how to manage their pain.  

If you struggle with chronic or persistent pain and want to get back to doing what you love, give us a call at ProActive Rehab, 705-788-1480 to get started today!