Be Afraid

Anxiety and fear will almost certainly make your pain worse; there is loads of research indicating that people who are anxious by nature (particularly those diagnosed with anxiety or depression) experience worse and longer lasting pain than those of a calmer/happier disposition.

This is all to do with your Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord).  Being anxious or depressed causes an increase in the production of certain chemicals; these “facilitate” (increase) the transmission of pain messages up to the brain.  So, for a given painful input (let’s say an inflamed joint), an anxious person will experience more pain than a non-anxious person.

“Lighten up” is not a message easily followed by someone prone to anxiety or depression, but it’s important to at least understand this risk so that you can work on your thought processes in the long run – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has a good track record.

Feel you have no control

People having no sense of control over their pain (an “external locus of control”), tend to experience more pain than those who retain a sense of control (an “internal locus of control”).  This is the importance of knowledge!  Knowing what’s wrong with you and what you can do to help yourself actually lowers your pain perception (even before you do those things!).  Knowledge actually gives you power over your pain

Carry on regardless

Pain is there to warn you that you may be damaging something; particularly pain that’s only been around for a few days or weeks.  (Longer term pain – over 3 months – may not indicate ongoing damage).  So, if you’ve got a pain, and it’s not getting better, remember to follow the Use it or Lose it but Don’t Abuse it maxim.  Ignore your pain at your own risk; you could easily end up with a Chronic Pain syndrome for which there may be no cure. 🙁

Make a Drama out of a Crisis

The medical term for this is “Catastrophize”.  The tendency to look at the worst in a situation, and imagine that things are worse than they are, is linked with more severe pain.  Pain is what it is – a warning sign (at least in the short term).

ADVICE

My advice is to accept that pain is a warning sign – accept that  it’s there to help you avoid further damager.  Identify the causes – and deal with them (including your anxious nature if you have one).  Don’t imgaine it to be any more than a simple warning.  If it doesn’t improve following the Use it or Lose it but Don’t Abuse it rule, then ask for some help.