Could a negative attitude make me feel more pain?

Anthony Cirillo
Geriatric Medicine
A negative attitude may cause people to sense more pain because they expect more pain. British and German researchers concluded that pessimism could override the effectiveness of powerful treatments.

They strapped a heat-beaming device onto the legs of 22 healthy volunteers, zapping it until people rated their pain at nearly 70 on a scale of 1 to 100. Then the researchers hooked up an IV to give them the powerful morphine-like painkiller.

When the researchers induced the burn and turned on the drug, the volunteers said their pain improved a fair amount. The researchers next told the volunteers they were about to inject the painkiller even though they'd never turned it off. Those pain ratings dropped even more -- the expectation of relief doubled the drug's painkilling benefit. Then researchers said -- falsely -- they were stopping the drug and that pain would probably increase. Sure enough, the volunteers' pain levels soared back up. Mind over matter.

Learning how anxiety influences pain is crucial to understanding this nocebo effect - how you get the pain you expect.

Continue Learning about Pain

Exercise & Pain
Exercise & Pain
When you live with chronic musculoskeletal pain, exercising might be the last thing you feel like doing. But it pays to keep moving. Workouts encourag...
Read More
What is breast pain?
Aurora Health CareAurora Health Care
Breast pain is a common problem that affects women of all ages. It may affect a woman at regular...
More Answers
6 Ways to Stay Pain Free This Winter
6 Ways to Stay Pain Free This Winter6 Ways to Stay Pain Free This Winter6 Ways to Stay Pain Free This Winter6 Ways to Stay Pain Free This Winter
Ease irritated joints and avoid cold-weather injuries with these expert-approved tips.
Start Slideshow
What Natural Methods Can I Use to Reduce Pain?
What Natural Methods Can I Use to Reduce Pain?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.