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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.

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Eric Robertson

Dr. Eric Robertson, the founder of and, is the Director of the Kaiser Permanente Physical Therapy Fellowship in Advanced Manual Therapy in Northern California, and Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso. 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.

4 thoughts on “Can Assumed Postures Help Chronic Pain?”

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

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