Have you ever heard about the pencil experiment? In a study conducted in the 1980s, researchers asked participants to hold a pencil in their mouths and watch videos that influenced various reactions ranging from disturbed to amusement. Their conclusion was that individuals forced to smile by holding a pencil between their teeth reacted more positively to stimuli than those not forced to smile. A more recent psychological study revisited this idea that smiling more could help individuals handle stress better than their more negative counterparts.

If the power of positive thinking, even when you don’t know you’re doing it, can help with stressful situations how does it affect pain?

Studies from an Australian researcher, Andrew Briggs, PhD, showed that a patient’s attitude toward their condition was an important component to whether or not they experienced relief from their pain. Individuals who are more knowledgeable about their condition, and understand how to use that knowledge during their recovery process, are more likely to experience relief and success in their treatments. However, patients with a more negative viewpoint, and who do not take an active participatory role in their care, are less likely to believe their pain will improve.

This positive or negative thought dichotomy is related to what Dr. Briggs refers to as health literacy. The more knowledge and positive beliefs patients have about their condition, the more likely they are to be an active participant in recovery.

Dr. Briggs was quoted as saying:

“For most patients, psychological factors as well as beliefs, attitudes, and health literacy will also come into play. We can tell patients to stay active, for example, but if they don’t believe exercise will help or if they fear activity will make their condition worse, they aren’t going to do it.”

The power of positive thinking goes beyond just smiling or keeping an upbeat attitude. Knowledge and participation are equally as important for patients experiencing back pain and working through their recovery process.

How has a positive attitude helped with your back pain?

Image by jessicahtam via Flickr

GET FREE EMAIL UPDATES!

Weekly updates on conditions, treatments, and news about everything happening inside pain medicine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!