02 Jun How does our mental health impact our pain experience?
With these very unusual times going at the moment, it is totally normal to be feeling a little lost, confused, anxious or even depressed. Certainty around the future is something the majority of us crave, and when we don’t have that, it’s normal for our mental health to suffer. One thing that we don’t often recognise is that life often throws us curve balls and uncertainty is quite common.
How we react to uncertainty, is what drives our emotions such as anger, worry or fear and therefore our actions.
You may be thinking – how does this link back to the experience of pain- as the title suggests?
There has been significant research linking psychological factors and how often they can negatively impact our pain experience. This ultimately results in an increased pain ‘interference’ (how often our pain interferes with our activities of daily life).
Medical conditions such as anxiety and depression, along with emotive and cognitive responses such as worry, fear and catastrophic thinking have all been shown to increase pain intensity and pain interference. Without going into the in-depth neuro-anatomy of pain in this blog, because frankly I think the message is in the sentence above…. I’m more concerned about helping you identify why you may be experiencing pain in these trying times, and what you can do about it.
Looking after our mental health is just as important, if not more important than looking after our physical health. If you’re someone with a known mental health condition, staying on top of it through regular mindfulness as well as chatting to your friends or allied health practitioner is the key. If you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health condition, but have felt a wave of worry, fear or sadness come over you in recent times, that’s ok! There’s plenty of resources such as beyond blue, and life line that can help. We also recommend chatting to your general practitioner (GP) who will be able to steer you in the right direction.
Now…. bring this back to physio, movement and pain! If you’re in a little bit more discomfort than usual, DON’T PANIC. Pain doesn’t necessarily mean that something is catastrophically wrong! Pain is an experience, and sometimes when things aren’t going the way we want them to, this experience can be ‘heightened.’ Get back to what you know, look after your mental health and keep moving.