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Breaking the Cycle of Fear

The best way to deal with pain is to figure out how to move through it

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Illustration Credit: Smoke Fire by Anne Siems

The patient says to the doctor: “Doc, it hurts when I do this!” So the doctor nods her head sagely and replies, “Don’t do that.”You’ve heard that one before? Well, funny or not, there is a flaw in that medical advice that remains counterintuitive to most. As a medical exercise specialist, the pain/fear avoidance model walks through my door just about every day in one form or another. Let me explain:When it comes to movement and exercise, we have three typical responses to pain.One: We fear the pain, so we avoid the activity that causes the pain—and we ultimately sink into disability and depression.Two: We mask the pain with pills, so we create unnecessary damage—and we ultimately sink into disability and depression.Three: We do not fear the pain, so we are able listen to it and figure out exactly what it is telling us to do next—and we recover and get on with our active lives.For example: A few years ago Betty developed what she self-diagnosed as severe hip pain. It hurt when she did certain activities, so she stopped doing them. Then she tried doing other activities, but that hurt too, so she stopped d …

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PainFearChronic PainExerciseCourage

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