Pain and Sedentary lifestyles: Is it a Paradox?

I saw this advert on the television last week and also heard the same message over the radio. It shocked me but then got me thinking about how a paradox may exist creating sedentary lifestyles.

What did you think of it? Is it a ploy to create dependency? Does it come back to money? I can see the message they are trying to put out that there is help for people with Arthritis. However I believe the message is poor, as it is not a true representation of the actual nature of the condition. The advert may have more of a nocebic effect (Nocebo = I shall harm).

We are in the midst of a paradox and to me it seems we have been there for quite some time and will continue to be unless something changes. What do I mean? Well on the one hand we see adverts, such as the one above, which could be misinterpreted as fear inducing creating avoidance to movement and exercise for fear of making it worse. Then on the other hand we are being told that if we don’t exercise enough (or eat well) we are at risk of any number of diseases such as, diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome or cancer. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place!


Let me give you an example:


Sue goes to see her healthcare professional (HCP) complaining of knee pain. She has seen the above advert and is told that in order to reduce her knee pain she needs to lose weight. However, losing weight probably won’t address her concerns about her knee pain. Sue is already sensitive about the fact that she needs to lose weight but having seen the advert she doesn’t want to make her knee worse. Paradox! Compounding an already existing problem (arthritis) by perpetuating it with another (broken glass metaphor) is a journey to disaster.


Everyday we are bombarded by information from charity organisations, HCPs and governments about how we should be living a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating well, cutting down on alcohol, don’t smoke, reduce your fat intake etc. Although this now seems to be ok and its sugar and particular types of carbohydrates we need to be careful of (Noakes et al., 2013). Of course it’s important to adopt healthy living but there are some messages that just seem to sneak through the gap that can completely upset the balance. It appears that we (humans) are affected more by the bad rather than the good and that has a significant impact on our beliefs and behaviours. Furthermore, this can be moulded by HCPs particularly when explained in a way that re-enforces those negative behaviours and beliefs (Greville-Harris, M & Dieppe, P., 2015).


Isn’t it about time that organisations, HCPs and even governments step up a gear to start delivering the right message to the public. That general aches and pains are normal, with less emphasis on structural causes related to pain and more about what factors can drive those aches and pains such as work/life balances, stress levels, language use, understanding the importance of doing too much versus doing too little and how graduated exposure to activities is a better approach.

After all are we not the ones that criticise people for not exercising enough? Yet we are the ones giving the mixed messages and it seems that a lot of us don’t actually realize we are doing it.


Thanks for having a read




Noakes, T., Creed, S.A., Proudfoot, J., & Grier, D. (2013). The real meal revolution: Changing the world. One meal at a time. South Africa. Quivertree publications ISBN 978-1-928209-16-4
Greville-Harris, M., & Dieppe, P. (2015). Bad is more powerful than good: The nocebo response in medical consultations. The American Journal of Medicine. 128. (2). 126-129








One response to “Pain and Sedentary lifestyles: Is it a Paradox?”

  1. The case for and the case against: a short blog on clinical reasoning Avatar

    […] down my throat, I will be the first to hold my hand up and point out the blogs that I have written here and here regarding the use of poor language. Hence this latest blog post is a reflection of my own […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: