It is human nature to avoid things that cause us pain. However, if acknowledging and accepting that pain provides relief in long-term, then one should not shy away from it. One of the common examples of this is when a person goes under rehabilitation after an injury or accident. No matter how discomforting or painful the process is, it results in healed wounds and improved health.
There are several possible barriers to completing pain treatment, such as immobility and intense pain. But there is one more factor that usually doesn’t get much attention, i.e. fear. Most people with chronic pain issues avoid pain-causing behaviours, and eventually, this psychological avoidance may grow into a complex called Kinesiophobia.
Technically Kinesiophobia is characterized as a fear of movement. Many chronic pain patients with kinesiophobia tend to have more severe pain from their condition due to stiffness of their joints and muscles, or cognitive pain accentuation.
What Is Kinesiophobia?
As mentioned earlier that people avoid recovery activities due to pain and discomfort, but when this avoidance is pathological, it is called kinesiophobia. Individuals with chronic pain conditions grow such avoidance behaviour to prevent further discomfort or pain.
Kinesiophobia is most common in patients with long-term pain problems, such as lower back pain. In this condition, movement can cause severer symptoms of discomfort, or even re-aggravate an injury. In most cases, while there is a fair possibility of pain, there is only a small risk that an existing injury or condition can worsen. Kinesiophobia is therefore characterized as the irrational fear of movement.
Effects of Kinesiophobia
In Kinesiophobia, a human body may experience various psychological and physical effects, such as:
Limited range of motion— People with kinesiophobia are unable to indulge in strengthening and stretching exercises, they frequently show less range of motion than comparable sufferers with chronic pain.
Catastrophic pain— One of the greatest problems of treating kinesiophobia is mitigating the intensification of the symptoms. When the neural pathways that control fear and pain overlap, fear of pain can make them feel much worse.
Distorted muscle coordination— many people who hate other forms of movement will make up for this by embracing an altered change. It can result in unusual pressure on the joint tissue and muscles that can contribute to secondary pain or wellbeing.
Greater pain— although trying to prevent more pain by limiting movement, people with kinesiophobia also feel more pain due to disuse and disability. Joints and muscles may become atrophied and rigid, making daily activities much more complicated and painful. This disuse can lead to painful problems with secondary health or even re-injury.
Treatment Techniques for Kinesiophobia
Unentangling pain and injury — One of the main reasons many patients seek to minimize pain are to prevent other damage, but many sufferers of kinesiophobia wrongly equate all kinds of pain with bodily harm. Such patients need to be informed about how pain is often beneficial; in some situations, the patient might need to be counselled by a therapist.
Limited motion— You can try restricted movement until your therapist feels you are ready. It will initially help determine your pain threshold. It will gradually strengthen over weeks or months, allowing you to engage in further activity.
Medications for Anti-anxiety — Some patients who have kinesiophobia can improve by taking some anti-anxiety drugs. However, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Paxil or Zoloft are the most widely prescribed, some doctors that turn to benzodiazepines such as Valium which carry greater risks.
Associate movement with enjoyment— One effective way to conquer movement anxiety is to equate it to pleasure. In reality, this does not require any physical activity; rather, you may work with a health care provider to visualize pleasurable movements such as walking on a beach or playing a favourite musical instrument. You will try to picture every aspect of such an operation like muscle and joint movement, so that you can look forward to the actual motion.
Analgesics — In certain cases, pain relief can be necessary during physical therapy to alleviate pain symptoms. Originally, this drug regime would be limited to anti-inflammatory pain drugs over-the-counter, although certain physicians may resort to prescription opioids if appropriate.
Massage therapy— Manual manipulation can be very successful for certain patients who have kinesiophobia. Not only can manual stimulation help heal scar tissue and stressed muscles, but this treatment is associated with a significant euphoria that can help relieve any residual pain and anxiety.