What do you do and say when you hurt?
You may moan or groan. You may make a face and grimace or wince. You may touch or rub the area that hurts. You may stop what you’re doing and limit activity. You may complain. You may even say a few choice words.
The body’s natural vocal, verbal, physical, emotional, and social reactions to pain are called pain behaviors. They’re our ways of expressing our pain. And they can become over-exaggerated catastrophic responses to the pain.
While fine for acute pain like touching a hot stove, we know what to expect with our chronic pain. It shouldn’t be a surprise.
Pain behaviors place undue focus on chronic pain and reinforce the pain circuits in our bodies – amplifying the pain and leading to emotional distress and anxiety. They tell your brain how to react the next time you have pain. You not only learn the pain; you learn the reaction.
Just like a kid screaming for candy at the store. If you always buy the child (in this case, pain) candy when they scream, they’ll continue to scream each time you take them to the store until they get candy.
While it takes time and practice, eliminating pain behavior can help make the pain less intense and make it safer for us to become more active which in return can make our lives better.
Chronic Pain Champions is an information resource/blog/support group to help chronic pain patients, their families, and friends, as well as healthcare professionals. Learn more about this site and the author.