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  • Benjamin Toh

Does What You Believe Affect Back Pain?

Updated: May 11

What you believe about your body, your injury, the cause of your pain and what may or may not help it is going to have an effect on the pain you experience and on your recovery.

I am NOT saying that pain is “all in your head”. I am not discounting your experience or saying you can will it away or that you are imagining it. Pain can be complex and biomechanics do matter, but so does what you BELIEVE.

Here are some examples:

-It is an unfortunately commonly held notion that bending your back is “dangerous”. Let’s assume that you believed this. If you did, you might tend to keep your back and core overly stiff all the time in a way that actually increases pain. You start to avoid back bending which causes your back to be sensitized to bending. Then because the back is more sensitive to it, you avoid it even more, and then lose physical capacity to bend, which further exacerbates the problem.

-An orthopedic surgeon told you that you will have pain the rest of your life if you don’t get surgery. If you believe it, you will be much less likely to try conservative measures such as Physical Therapy and less likely to be physically active because you essentially feel that it is hopeless. So you lose even more physical capacity and experience more pain.

-A medical provider such as a PT or Chiro has taught you that your spine is fragile, so much so that is has scared you to challenge your physical capacity while simultaneously feeling reliant on their “magic knowledge and treatment” to fix your problem.

What you believe MATTERS. Beliefs affect both behavior and how much pain you experience. I don’t believe any of those above 3 statements to be true. Other medical professionals may tell you otherwise. While they mean well, I see the harm these beliefs cause.

If you have been told something by a medical provider that has affected your outlook on your pain and rehab, I would love to chat to see if I can change your mind. :)

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