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What is Kinesiophobia?

I've talked before about how fear is a key aspect in the vicious and complex cycle of pain. If you've been living with persistent pain, you know that anxiety, that fear of moving your body the wrong way and having your pain area flare up. It is an exhausting anxiety.

Well, there is a term for it... it is kinesiophobia and it was coined in 1990 by Miller and colleagues. Though the idea of fear avoidance in relation to pain and movement was first mentioned in the early 80's.

That really wasn't that long ago... and if you think about how it typically takes decades for latest scientific research to actually be taught in schools... then you may be ahead of the times reading this blog!

So, then the real question is... What made you anxious or fearful of movement?

The most obvious answer would seem to be that you had an injury and moving a certain way made it hurt, so you avoided that. I remember growing up, my wrists always hurt. I would tell my mom and she would say 'well then, don't move it that way'. Made sense... but now, we know better. The body adapts and gets stronger when we move it and use it. It gets weaker and more prone to pain when we don't use it.

So there is that answer, society has a belief that we need to rest what hurts. Though now we know better, at least the good, knowledgeable, always learning therapists know better.

But that isn't the full answer. There are other components as well. Most often it is from the language that we hear from medical professionals. They say don't bend, don't twist, and for heavens sake... don't fall!

One example of this is a good friend of mine. She had a bone scan done one year and in the doctor appointment she was told that she had severe osteoporosis and it was expressly stated that she must take precautions not to fall. She spent over 18 months terrified that she was going to break a hip if she tripped on the slightest thing. Luckily, 18 months later she went in for another bone scan, this time talking with a kinesiologist about the results. She asked if it had gotten worse, she was worried.

Here is the kicker... the kinesiologist said there was absolutely no worry to be had. Yes, she did show signs of severe osteoporosis in her spine, not her hip, which was normal for a woman her age. However, because she is a very active woman and has great muscle tone, whatever she may have been lacking in her bones, was fully supported by the healthy muscle tissue around it. You can imagine how relieved she was to hear that!

Now, this isn't to say that a kinesiologist is better than a doctor. Not at all. But the language was the difference. The communication and discussion was the key factor.

Trust me, this isn't the only story I have about the language that is used in medical appointments and how it is a huge contributing factor to fear and anxiety around movement.

To be honest, I could write a book about it. Hmmm, maybe I will.

In the meantime, here is a short quiz you can take to learn more about your kinesiophobia.

Interested in learning more? Let's chat!

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