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What you Need to Know about Fear Avoidance Behavior

Updated: May 10, 2022

Have you ever heard of "fear avoidance behavior?" If you're not a rehab therapist, movement specialist, or someone interested in pain science, then odds are, you haven't. But if you are one of the MANY people dealing with chronic pain, it's something you should know about.

Fear Avoidance Behavior basically works in this way: When a person is injured, they begin to associate the pain and injury with the activity that caused it, and they will avoid that activity – and other activities. In the short term, avoidance may promote healing, but over time, fear of pain may actually initiate chronic pain, leading to disability and depression.

Does this sound familiar? Here are some examples: You hurt your back squatting or crouching, so you avoid squatting and crouching. Like, for the rest of your life. You hurt your knee one day and it also happened to bother you while lunging, kneeling, or going up or down stairs. Now you avoid lunging, kneeling, and going up or down stairs. You are afraid you might hurt or get stuck trying to get on and off the floor, so you lose the ability to get onto and off from the floor completely. You hurt your shoulder while working out, now you avoid all upper body exercises.

Though avoiding painful activities during the acute healing phase is wise, it is also wise to learn how to re-incorporate ALL movement and activities safely back into your life in order to avoid chronic pain and debility.

Through PT, we've met a lot of people who have eliminated so many activities from their lives in fear that it would cause pain or injury, when in reality, it would be the exact movements they would need in order to restructure and re-strengthen the area of injury.

Do you avoid stairs? Do you avoid squatting? Do you avoid kneeling? Do you avoid lifting? Do you avoid trying to get on and off the floor? Do you avoid anything in fear that it will injure you or cause pain, or because you think you simply can't do it?

Then you NEED to see a Physical Therapist to evaluate your physical condition and ability and teach you to reincorporate movement and activity back into your life. You'd be surprised at how with the right guidance, not only will you not have more pain, but you'll actually experience LESS pain, you'll feel stronger, and you'll feel more energetic and full of life! Especially if you're avoiding physical activities under the age of 70. You could still have a lot of life left to live! Contact your local PT today to determine if you're demonstrating fear avoidance behaviors, and get on the road to recovery and pain-free movement!

In good health,

Dr. Ashley Bertorelli

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