Can Assumed Postures Help Chronic Pain?

Can Assumed Postures Help Chronic Pain?
I'm teaching a freshman seminar course this year at Texas State. It's about introducing students to the university as well as the college learning environment and culture. I was prepping them for some interview and presentation assignments and stumbled across a fine TED Talk by Amy Cuddy about the importance of body language.     The information in this is fascinating. Basically, you can see significant, measurable changes in hormones simply by maintaining a posture for as little as two minutes. It doesn't seem to matter if you actually feel powerful or weak, but if you hold the power poses, you increase testosterone and decrease cortisol. It also seems that subjects are better able to cope with stress and have superior results in job interviews following this 2-minute posture hold. If the simple act of assuming a posture can alter the brain, I wonder if having patients in chronic pain can see a similar benefit. Power poses before therapy might just help take that edge off and allow more pain-free motion during a therapy session. Of course, this is just me postulating, but I wonder... Testosterone might not have an obvious connection to pain, but cortisol and resultant stress levels certainly could. Perhaps testosterone could somehow enhance self-efficacy, which is important for function in the face of chronic pain.
About Eric Robertson

Dr. Eric Robertson, the founder of and, is an Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy at Regis University in Denver, CO. In addition to writing, he is a connoisseur of many things, ranging from coffee to bonsai trees. He specializes in orthopaedic manual physical therapy, radiology, evidence-based practice, and the impact of technology on healthcare.

  1. Barbara Boucher, PT, PhD 10/25/2012, 4:05 pm Reply

    Nice find, Eric. I look forward to viewing it – and to meeting you tomorrow. Safe travel from Vegas to SA!

  2. Barbara Boucher, PT, PhD 10/29/2012, 5:37 pm Reply

    I was hoping to run into you again to ask you…the research depicted here & research panned in the news – relating hormonal level & voting patterns in females. Your thoughts?

  3. Joshua 06/04/2014, 4:17 pm Reply

    You might want to check out something called Associative Awareness Techniques. A couple of PTs from Colorado have figured out that taking a body posture (opposite of the startle reflex) can reduce sympathetic tone (which helps maintain chronic pain states) and pain. There is more to AAT than that but that is one of there techniques.