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With the abundance of streaming services available on your TV, it’s never been easier to turn your home into a cinema. What’s more, tuning into certain films could help manage your chronic pain. While sitting in front of the telly won’t cure or treat the stubborn aches, it can still be quite beneficial, according to an expert.
If you get drawn in by psychological horrors like Silence of the Lambs or prefer a simpler slasher classic like Scream, you might be onto something.
Gravitating towards this genre doesn’t only leave your body with uncomfortable chills, it could also aid your pain.
Pain expert and chiropractor Paul Allen, from The Fibro Guy, noticed that his clients, who enjoyed Kubrick’s horror movies or binged American Horror Story series, often had better pain management – and science could back it up.
Allen said: “In fact, some studies even suggest that horror movies can be as beneficial to an anxious mind, in the same way that exercise helps – which is great, as I’m sure many would choose to watch a film over going for a run every time.”
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Grab the popcorn and make yourself comfortable, here’s why horror movies could help with your pain.
Experiencing controlled stress
The very reason why many people avoid scary movies – stress while watching – allows you to shift your focus from chronic pain to something else.
Allen said: “Horror movies give you a chance to experience stress in a controlled environment, helping you to engage your flight or fight response.
“Plus, there’s a stark difference between causing yourself stress on purpose, as opposed to it being thrust upon you, and you can turn off the TV at any time if things get too much.”
From endorphins to dopamine, there are various feel-good chemicals your body can release when you watch the spooky films.
Allen said: “The release of endorphins is a common occurrence when watching horror films, and as one of their main purposes is to mask pain and stress, it doesn’t take long to see how this could help someone with chronic pain.
“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, whilst helping with motivation and motor control, also gives you feelings of pleasure and a ‘reward’ – this means when little Suzie finally gets away from the axe-wielding maniac, you also get a little hit of the reward of staying alive.”
Escape from reality
Whether you go to a cinema or pull the blinds shut and focus on your chosen movie, immersing yourself in somebody else’s story is a great way to escape your own.
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Allen said: “Many people living with long-term conditions report that even just an hour of their favourite TV shows can help distract them and bring down their pain.
“In fact, a study looking at the psychological resistance of individuals during the Covid outbreak found that certain genres were associated with better resilience during the pandemic.
“Those who watched horror flicks found that they benefited through preparation and practice of both specific skills relevant to particular situations and more general skills associated with emotional regulation.”
Another reason why horror movies could aid chronic pain comes down to sensory input they provide.
The expert added: “At a whopping 11 million pieces of sensory data received every second, your brain has a lot to do, so potentially drowning out some of the noxious stimuli that you use to help create pain [with] a fast-paced horror film seems like a likely contender to help.
“Horror films help to sharpen your senses as you look out for danger in the film, taking your mind off your pain.
“Plus, infrasound, the sound that can’t be heard but sensed, still causes a reaction in your brain when watching horror flicks which use it to create atmosphere.
“Add in some creaking door noises, jump scares, and everything else that builds up that ominous feeling, and that is a lot of rich and novel sensory data, that may give you some respite from pain.”
The NHS recommends seeing your GP if you’ve been experiencing pain for 12 weeks or more.
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