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Negativity Hurts / Positivity Heals

What role does mood play in your chronic pain? As it turns out, your mood can play a significant role in how you perceive and cope with pain…and positivity helps!

Positivity (ie: positive mood) and Pain - A correlation between mood and pain

Chronic Pain and Depression – The Downward Spiral

Pain can put you in a negative frame of mind. Not surprisingly, studies have shown that chronic pain can put you in a repeated negative state of mind, thereby making you more susceptible to depression.

Not only can chronic pain make you more susceptible to depression but some argue that depression and negative thoughts can actually make pain worse. Perhaps this is related to how you cope with your pain. Or, perhaps it’s because the same neurotransmitters that influence pain (norepinephrine and serotonin) also influence mood.

Whatever the reason, we can see the downward spiral that can result.

Chronic Pain → Negative Mood → More Pain → Worse Mood …..


Positivity and Pain – An Upward Spiral

If pain and negative thoughts can feed off each other does the opposite hold true? Quite possibly.

A review on the topic in 2015 concluded that a positive frame of mind (aka: positive affect or PA) can have a stronger impact on pain than a negative frame of mind. During the review the researchers noted that chronic pain sufferers who had a positive mood were more active in their pain treatment process, making the treatments more effective. In addition, positivity also broadened their mindsets, making them open to more coping strategies. When improvements to pain were achieved, those with a positive mood were also able to better appreciate the “reward” and positive experience associated with the pain reduction.

In short, a positive mood can affect both the perception of pain and the reduce the negative mood associated with pain. Therefore, being positive can effectively stop the downward spiral which can lead to increased chronic pain and depression.

In addition, it can also be argued that positivity can lead to behaviors which help individuals cope and/or treat their pain. If this is the case then we can see how we can create an “upward spiral”:

Chronic Pain → Positive Outlook → Open to New Treatments and Coping Mechanisms → Reduction in Pain → Greater Ability to Appreciate Results of Efforts → Increase Optimism and Positivity …


Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend many treatment methods for your chronic pain. As you consider these also consider the role your mindset plays on both your perception and reaction to your pain. Mindset can be a difficult thing to change but can lead to immeasurable rewards.



  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201897/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16351329/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19796062/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10870723/
  • https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000417.htm
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC486942/


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