Fear of Movement Worsens Auto Injury Recovery
Auto injuries often result in long-term pain and disability. A significant proportion of people who have been in a crash experience chronic disability as a result of the injury, although the mechanism by which pain relates to disability is unclear.
According to the Fear Avoidance Model, fear of movement explains the relationship between pain and disability in patients with auto injuries. In the model, experiences of pain may lead to anxiety about the harmfulness of pain, generating fear about certain movements and situations that could lead to pain. Fear of movement results in avoidance of activities and further disability.
Recently a team of researchers sought to determine the influence of fear of movement on pain intensity and disability in patients with auto injuries. A total of 205 patients with neck pain caused by a motor vehicle collision rated their pain intensity, fear of movement, and disability at 4 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months post-accident.
The researchers found that fear of movement accounts for approximately 20-40% of the relationship between pain and disability. These findings suggest that the Fear Avoidance Model plays a role in explaining some, but not all, of the relationship between pain and disability following crash injuries. It also provides support for the idea that avoidant thoughts and behaviors need attention when assessing people with auto accident pain.
Kamper S, Maher CG, et al. Does fear of movement mediate the relationship between pain intensity and disability in patients following whiplash injury? A prospective longitudinal study. Pain 2012; 153: 113-119.