Fear of moving because of pain

Many doctors and physios have lectured me about the importance of not being afraid to move. Kinesiophobia. Being so afraid of the pain that movement might cause that you stop moving.

They launch into their explanations before they've found out anything about me. When I point out that I'm a dancer, and dance both in and out of my chair, there tends to be a pause as if their reality had just been shifted sideways.

For me, movement is a key management technique. It's how I realign some joints, how I stretch tight muscles, how I build strength and control (which has reduced my pain long term), how I ease the pain from joints held in one position for too long.

So in my head, this 'fear of movement' was so totally irrelevant to me.


I did something to my back muscles. Probably pulled them. If I don't move it's OK. If I move, sometimes it's OK...and sometimes the pain hits me like a red hot poker. It's familiar pain, and not indicative of anything more serious than 'I annoyed my back muscles'.

3 spikey cacti in a row

But it's got me thinking about fear of movement. It wasn't too bad this morning, but over the day it's not so much that the pain is worse - more that it's tiring and horrible and "please no...not again. I can't handle this". If I'm in a position which doesn't hurt: I don't want to move. Not through any irrational fear. But because although if I'm lucky I might not hurt when I move, there's a good chance it'll hurt enough to stop me breathing and make me want to hurl for a second or two before slowly dying down again. 

It's exhausting. 

On the other hand, I know that if I don't move it won't just be my back that gets worse, it'll be all of me that worsens. So I've been moving regularly, and using heat packs and gentle stretching. It's manageable. But I still get those knee-melting twinges.

I can do relaxed movement fairly well until it shouts. Then I have to bring out every bit of self control to gently keep going while the pain fades again (and get through however many more twinges that  movement might bring). Trying not to tense up in anticipation because that will make it even worse. It's not easy.

I think perhaps I'm allowed to feel afraid of this pain. To want to avoid that sickening stab. However, I can't afford to let that fear stop me moving!

So while I'm not going to focus on the pain, and am planning to do more gentle moving than I usually do, I'm not going to feel guilty for being a bit afraid of that invisible poker.

So yep. Right now I feel a bit afraid of moving. It'll pass. And it won't stop me moving (sensibly).

As I sit here with a heated blanket on my back, about to do some more stretches, I can't help wondering whether all those lectures could have been more helpful if they approached it from another angle.

What if, instead of telling me I must not be afraid of pain, they had given me space to have a bit of sensible fear, and focused instead on 'how to keep moving despite the understandable fear'?