While you might have hated the painful reminders about standing or sitting up straight when you were a child, good posture actually helps manage pain. Add to this the already acknowledged benefits of good posture like showing everyone that you are confident and empowered and encouraging you to believe in your own work and words. Now a new study, “It Hurts When I Do This (or You Do That),” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology points out that by simply adopting more dominant poses, people feel more in control - able to tolerate more distress.
Pain consists of a mind/body loop. In my stress management research I have found that anticipating pain and focusing on a particular pain tends to increase sensitivity to pain. This is why distraction works well for many people. Engaged in a fun activity, they forget about the pain. In fact, when I suffered from sciatica, I was virtually pain-free during the time I was gardening! Another method which is effective is “facing the pain, confronting it” in the mind to let go of a negative emotion like the fear or anger associated with the pain. In the case of lower back pain for many people there is a simmering resentment which needs to be released according to Dr. John Sarno’s life work.
By assuming a strong, erect posture you will experience a greater sense of control over a painful procedure or illness. The lead authors of this study, Scott Wiltermuth and Vanessa Bohns, point out that curling up in a ball actually makes you feel more pain; this powerless position increases stress hormones which fuel the pain. Stress is inflammatory to both mind and body. In contrast, standing or sitting tall stretches the body as opposed to constricting it.
Just imagine standing with shoulders back and down, chest open and your chin up – can you see how this posture sends a signal to your mind that you can handle it? And if you believe that you can handle it, you will. Moreover an interesting assertion of this study is that good posture generates testosterone which enables you to tolerate more pain – in other words raising your pain threshold.
Another important message: If you are a caregiver to a child or parent, you might be intensifying their pain by doing too much for them! Making the patient more submissive actually intensifies the pain. It is important for each one of us to partner our own healing. Discipline the body and the mind will follow.
For more information on managing your stress and reclaiming your life read my book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show