More PsychNotes: Pain Management
Tension: The Worst Thing for Pain
by Monica A. Frank, PhD
When people are in pain, they tend to tense around the area where they feel the pain. For instance, if a person has a headache, they tend to tense their forehead, neck, and shoulders. The idea is that if they keep the area rigid and don't move, somehow it will help alleviate the pain. What happens, then, is the intended behavior causes the opposite effect. Unfortunately, instead of a decrease in pain, the pain is intensified.
Therefore, to reduce pain you need to counter your body's natural inclination. Instead of tensing the area of pain, it is necessary to relax the area. This can be very difficult because you are fighting the body's tendency to tense.
However, with enough practice of the relaxation methods and finding the ones that are most effective for you, it is possible to reduce the pain. This doesn't mean that relaxation gets rid of pain, only that it helps manage the pain by counteracting the increased pain due to the tension.
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