06 Mon

Avoid Thought Viruses

Avoid Thought Viruses

Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CGFI


I recently came across a fellow physiotherapist blog post about “thought viruses”. A thought virus is a statement, idea, or belief that is most commonly given to you from someone in a position of authority, and can affect your ability to process information on any level.

One very common thought virus that I run into is: MRI or X-rays of a certain body part show some degenerative change and that’s why you have pain. Generally people have some time of degeneration or change that happens as we age and is present even before we have some type of MRI or X-ray. The result of some special diagnostic test doesn’t necessarily mean that the pain started just then. It may have been present for years prior to getting that MRI or X-ray.

Pain is a complex interpretation of stimuli. The short version is that this stimulus may be due to an acute injury or inflammation. You brain interprets this as pain. Your body then creates some type of compensation in movement or posture that is part of the protection mechanism. Or it may even create altered thinking or behaviors that create more change in how you interact with your environment. All this is useful in the beginning, but less so as your body heals.

As your body heals itself, in time, your brain may still be sensitized to any stimuli and interpret it as pain. It’s an ongoing level of protection that your brain continues to perseverate on. There is a genetic component to this and previous experience with injury plays a role as well. You may be just more “primed” to be sensitive to pain.

Negative thoughts can play into this pain cycle. When we complain of pain or focus on it, our brains and thought processes become more sensitive to it. Working on positive thoughts and focusing on the process of recovery is more challenging but in the long run, you can heal and forget about pain. There’s a great “bracelet program” that can help with this process, a way to remain positive for 21 days and create a lasting change in the way we think about pain itself.  Here’s an excerpt:

1) Place the bracelet on either wrist, this starts the process at Day 1

2) If you complain about anything, your pain, or otherwise, switch the bracelet to the other wrist and start at Day 1 again

  • internal complaints are allowed, but only because this will change once you stop verbalizing complaints
  • example:  instead of saying “I hate how cold it is today!” You could say, “I should have dressed with more layers today!”

3) If anyone asks you how you are, you say “I’m doing great!”

  • Follow this with any positive statement about something going on in your life.

4) If someone asks, “What about your headaches, back pain… etc…?” You just say, “I’m working on it”

  • If a healthcare provider is asking you, or gives you a form to fill out, you may tell them how your condition is going so they can measure your progress


If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit us.



Photo courtesy of hywards / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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