A New Perspective On Two Chronic Pain Aspects: Overactivity Behavior, Activity Pacing

“In our studies, findings suggest that overactivity is associated with poor acceptance of one’s altered level of physical function whereby habitual overactive individuals are aware of their limitations but are struggling to accept them,” Andrews said.

Consequences of this behavior included more disability, decreased quality of life, more emergency room visits, and an increased risk for abusing drugs or alcohol. Not surprisingly, the subjects found it hard to change. But those that were able to learn activity pacing as part of a pain management program did benefit.1

“In our second study, some participants who had altered their habitual overactive behavior, and had learned to pace activity effectively, actually reported improvements in their ability to cope with pain and complete desired tasks, suggesting activity pacing may improve self-efficacy,” Andrews said.

More About Overactivity Behavior

Recognizing overactivity behavior as a barrier to pain management is important for clinicians who deal with chronic pain. Overactivity behavior is typically a cyclic phenomenon. Overacting individuals start bursts of activity after pain has subsided or due to the frustration of inactivity. There can be destructive cycling of overactivity and underactivity, sometimes called ‘boom or bust’ behavior.1

In a commentary on the PAIN article, Monika Hasenbring, head of the department of medical psychology and medical sociology at Ruhr-Universitat of Bochum, Germany, notes that suppressing thoughts of pain may also play a role on overactivity behavior. This type of thought suppression may be linked to behaviors known as pain persistence or pain endurance.2

Overactivity as well as endurance or persistence in daily activity despite high levels of pain refer to maladaptive kinds of pain coping. The crucial aspect is that these strategies are shown despite high levels of pain,” Dr. Hasenbring said.