Catastrophizing means that someone becomes obsessed with the worst possible outcome and treats it as likely, even when it’s not. For chronic pain sufferers, and especially people with fibromyalgia who often don’t receive adequate pain treatment, it means worrying about whether your pain will flare and if so, how badly. After experiencing very bad flares, it’s common to worry that they’ll happen again. Fibro flares suck. No one wants to deal with them any more than necessary.
Numerous scientific studies have focused on pain catastrophizing not just in fibromyalgia, but also in other chronic pain conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, as well as more generalized chronic pain. Before I go any further, I want to stress that I’m not saying yoga is a cure. I never advocate a “cure” for fibromyalgia. (You can see my previous blog on the subject if you like.) However, anything that can slow the spiral of thoughts that often leads us to our worst case scenario, is always a good thing.
For me, yoga is a tool that helps. When I am practicing yoga, I slow down. I focus on my body, on the sensation of movement, of really listening to it in the moment. Sometimes I follow a proscribed asana sequence. Other times, I simply let my body move as it wants. When we use yoga as it was originally intended–for liberation rather than a type of workout–it becomes intuitive to tune into our body and see what it needs.
Moving our bodies not only helps to bring our thoughts from our head into our entire being, but it also reminds us that we can move and stretch. It helps us to focus on what we can do in the moment and not worry about the future. Pain catastrophizing comes from fearing what might happen in the future. Staying in the moment helps prevent this.