You don't have to fear pain

Minutes to read

If you’re like me and have experienced some sort of pain in your life it's more than likely that someone along the way has told you something along the lines of “don’t do that”, “you should avoid this” or, my personal favourite, “you can never do that again”. These messages can usually come from all kinds of places, such as a health professional, friends, family, social media and work colleagues but typically has the same outcome.


These types of statements often lead to increased fear and anxiety around certain movements or everyday tasks, leading people to see themselves as ‘damaged’ or ‘fragile’, and this impacts how we perceive these simple everyday tasks (Caneiro, 2022). This altering of our perception is referred to as a nocebo effect, the evil twin of the placebo effect, and can easily turn something as simple as bending to touch your toes into a fearful experience that we avoid at all costs. However, a key thing to remember is pain does not equal damage, and it has a lot of contributing factors, including our fear and beliefs (Rossettini,2018).  Have a read of our blog on pain with more information on this.

As a simple example of how what we are told can alter our perception of pain, we can look at a really cool study by Piedimonte et al.,(2017). In this experiment, participants were given a constant electrical stimulus to their hand and told when they saw a red light, it would become more painful, or if they saw a green light, it would become less painful. Amazingly, although the stimulus never actually changed, the pain levels reported by the participants did increase when a red light was shown, indicating how much of an impact context and verbal input can have on our perception of pain.


So, you’re probably thinking; ‘what should, or shouldn’t I do when I have pain then?’. The best answer we have is to simply move. Move-in comfortable ways, move in uncomfortable ways, just move in any way you like really. If we fear movement and avoid the activities that give us pain, it’s more likely that those activities will continue to be painful. Instead, the current evidence suggests that we gradually expose ourselves to these movements, whether that be lifting, sports, or even putting our socks on (Caneiro, 2022). By finding new and less painful ways to complete these actions, our amazing bodies begin to adapt and become more resilient, letting us get back to fearless movement and doing the things we love over time.


If you would like help with your pain and feel you need some guidance getting back to doing the things you love, Book Now to organise an initial session with one of our trusted team members.  



  • Caneiro, J.P., Smith, A., Bunzli, S., Linton, S., Moseley, G.L. and O’Sullivan, P., 2022. From fear to safety: a roadmap to recovery from musculoskeletal pain. Physical therapy102(2),p.pzab271.
  • Piedimonte, A., Guerra, G., Vighetti, S. andCarlino, E., 2017. Measuring expectation of pain: contingent negative variation in placebo and nocebo effects. European Journal of Pain21(5), pp.874-885.
  • Rossettini, G., Carlino, E. and Testa, M., 2018.Clinical relevance of contextual factors as triggers of placebo and nocebo effects in musculoskeletal pain. BMC musculoskeletal disorders19(1),pp.1-15.
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