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How Stress and Pain Can Become a Cycle

How Stress and Pain Can Become a Cycle

Living with chronic pain can be incredibly stressful. And it turns out that the relationship between stress and pain is often an ongoing cycle – pain can increase your stress level, and stress triggers reactions in the body that may make pain worse. Understanding this relationship is essential for improving outcomes.

How Stress Amplifies Pain

Emotional stress is not just a feeling – it’s a physiological state controlled by your brain and nervous system. When you feel stressed out, cortisol (sometimes called the “stress hormone”) floods your body and increases inflammation. Inflammation also increases acute and chronic pain.

Being stressed activates your nervous system’s “fight or flight response,” which can lead to other pain-related symptoms like increased heart rate, a spike in blood pressure, and digestive upset.

Stress can disrupt sleep, and sleep is an important part of the body’s ability to recover and heal. So, when stress keeps us up at night, we’re at higher risk of deteriorating physical and mental health.

Coping With Stress and Pain

Stress can lead to unhealthy behaviors. For example, unless a person has a good support system and healthy coping skills, they may turn to activities like alcohol consumption or “binge-watching” television as a way to deal with their stress. Both alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle are associated with chronic pain and can contribute to weight gain and inflammation, making pain worse over time.

Breaking the cycle of stress and pain often requires the treatment of both. Here are a few approaches for managing both stress and pain, especially when combined with other treatments, like pain-relieving injections:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Yoga and other exercises
  • Meditation and other mindfulness practices
  • Journaling
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Lifestyle guidance to improve time management, communication, and coping skills

Do You Need Help Managing Stress and Pain?

At Integrated Pain Solutions, we use a variety of treatments to help our patients feel well again. If your pain or stress has become unmanageable, please contact us today: 614-383-6450.