Essential Knowledge About Pain


Why is my health care practitioner asking me about my mood? I have pain.


Important Facts About Mood and Pain: Mood and pain are intricately linked.

Pain is defined as a “sensory and emotional experience”. This is in recognition that mood and emotion play a critical role in the perception of pain. Many areas of the brain are involved in both pain and mood. If a health care practitioner asks you about your mood when you have a pain problem, they are trying to consider whether mood has an influence on your pain.

This does not mean that your mood is necessarily causing your pain, but it can certainly amplify your pain experience. For example, we know that people with back pain experience higher levels of pain and greater functional disability when their mood is low or their stress levels are very high.

When mood and pain are related, some people are acutely aware of how their pain is influenced by their mood. Others only realise this upon reflection.

So when this occurs, health care practitioners are not trying to imply that your pain is not real, or just in your mind. What they are trying to do is work out a more comprehensive management plan to help you manage your pain.


Important Facts About Mood and Pain: The effect of mood on pain.

The evidence of the relationship between mood is fairly clear:

Difficulties with mood (stress, anxiety and depression being the most common) that pre-date pain and/or a work injury can influence the onset of pain and subsequent pain journey.

Workers compensation claims can result in stress, anger and frustration. The presence of negative mood attributes early in a claim can delay recovery.

After 3 months, psychosocial factors like mood are more closely associated with pain and disability than factors like changes on scans and other physical findings.

Negative mood can profoundly influence the effectiveness of other management strategies. For example, negative mood is a well known contributor to poorer outcomes after surgery.


  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Worry
  • Rumination
  • Catastrophising

Beautiful sunset

  • Resilience
  • Self-Efficacy
  • Coping and Control
  • Motivation
  • Self-Confidence
  • Enjoyment
  • Relaxation
  • Engaged
  • Mindfulness

Important Facts About Mood and Pain: What to do.

Your health care practitioner will help you devise strategies to deal with negative mood and increase positive mood attributes:

  • One of the best things for mood control is physical activity. See our section on staying physically active for information on the importance of physical activity.
  • Psychological support can assist you in developing other strategies to assist your mood.
  • In some circumstances, medication may be necessary under the guidance of your GP or psychiatrist.

Summary: Pain and mood are linked

When health care practitioners managing your pain complaint are assessing your mood, this does not mean they think the pain is in your mind. Rather, they are exploring the known links between pain and mood so they can better guide your management. Strategies for assisting with mood can be effective in helping people manage their pain.

Evidence Informed Information Compiled By Dr Darren Beales, PhD and Dr Tim Mitchell, PhD