New US research has found our emotions can impact the way our bodies respond to injuries.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago studied brain scans to reveal why some people make a full recovery from particular injuries, while others continue to suffer constant pain. And the researchers found that chronic pain is linked to our attitude to an injury.
The more emotional our response to our injury is, the more likely that pain will persist, thanks to interaction between the frontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens of the brain, the researchers said.
''It may be that these sections of the brain are more excited to begin with in certain individuals, or there may be genetic and environmental influences that predispose these brain regions to interact at an excitable level," lead scientist Professor A Vania Apkarian said.
The researchers recruited 40 volunteers who had suffered back pain that lasted between one and four months.
Participants underwent four brain scans throughout one year. The scientists were able to predict with 85 percent accuracy which people would suffer long-lasting pain.
Marcus Dripps, the vice-president of the Australian Physiotherapy Association, said while the brain scan research is new, physiotherapists have long been using questionnaires to gauge patients' emotional states.
"We've known that you can predict some degree of certainty the conversion from acute to chronic pain," told ninemsn.
"The characteristics that are most likely to predict are not physical characteristics such as how bad your back injury is or how broken you are. It's more about how you interpret the meaning of this injury in your life."
Dripps said it's important doctors and physiotherapists are aware of a person's emotional response.
"People with beliefs about their injuries can be strongly reinforced or negated by the clinical interactions they have," he said.
More often than not, once a doctor or physiotherapist has ruled out very serious conditions, most people with injuries should continue going about their normal daily activities, Dripps said.
"The person who continues to engage in their normal life is more likely to do well than someone who decides it's the end of the world and they need to find a nice dark comfortable place," he said.