PT: Overcoming Kinesiophobia in Chronic Pain Patients!

By Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT

“According to a recent Institute of Medicine Report: Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research, pain is a significant public health problem that costs society at least $560-$635 billion annually, an amount equal to about $2,000.00 for everyone living in the U.S. This includes the total incremental cost of health care due to pain ranging between $261 to $300 billion and $297-$336 billion due to lost productivity (based on days of work missed, hours of work lost, and lower wages).” 1

Costs to the health care system pale in comparison with the effects of chronic pain on the personal lives of our consumers! People suffering from chronic pain often rely solely on medications for relief and avoid movement or activity for fear of exacerbating their discomfort—referred to as kinesiophobia. Unfortunately, many physicians simply resort to pharmacy as their primary intervention strategy. I was speaking with an integrative medicine physician this week and she offered that it was her experience that traditional medicine has become “All about the medicines!”

Education of the public and referral sources on the benefits of exercise and activity in both managing pain and ensuring an ongoing quality of life despite chronic pain seems to be a key role for the physical therapy profession!

How are you marketing to individuals with chronic pain?
The four common types of pain, according to the National Institute of Health Statistics, are low back pain—”the most common (27 percent)—followed by severe headache or migraine pain (15 percent), neck pain (15 percent), and facial ache or pain (4 percent).”2 Certainly physical therapy has a role to play in prescribing both hands-on treatment and exercise to each of these populations.

Consider partnering with either primary care physicians, pain specialists, complementary and alternative medicine providers, chiropractors, and/or massage therapists to provide a multidisciplinary education session on managing pain. Look to September to develop a media campaign and plan to leverage Pain Awareness Month in September! See: This website has unique tools and resources that might complement your own in reaching pain patients.

We have the opportunity to bring great solutions to the incredible number of people who are suffering from chronic pain and stuck in the grip of kinesiophobia!


1. Accessed June 2015.

2. National Centers for Health Statistics, Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans 2006, Special Feature: Pain. Accessed June 2015.


Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT, is president and consultant of Steffes & Associates, a national rehabilitation consulting group focused on marketing and program development for private practices nationwide. She is an instructor in five physical therapy programs and has actively presented, consulted, and taught in 40 states. She can be reached at

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