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2/11/20

Stress and Pain

It may come as a surprise to you that stress and pain are actually linked in substantial ways. Both relate closely to loss of homeostasis: both stress and pain require adaptive behaviors or forces to regain stability. If either becomes chronic, it can have consequential effects on the well-being of those that suffer from it.

Here at Precision, it is crucial that we assess all aspects of chronic pain, which can include the stressful problems that a patient is experiencing. If you can’t immediately fix the root cause of the pain, you can still work on reducing the problems that occur because of that pain and vice versa.

Studies have shown that when patients are faced with an unpredictable situation that causes stress, it can actually trigger physical pain. These physiological symptoms can show in the form of migraines or inflammation, and can lead to other persistent types of pain. Acute stress activates parts of the nervous system that lead to increased blood pressure and divergence of blood to the brain and muscles.

The limbic brain, which is the oldest part of the brain (evolutionarily), includes the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the ventromedial pre-frontal cortex. These play a critical role in learning. They generate signals necessary for decision-making and can even restructure how your brain functions. They can ultimately develop into conditions such as chronic pain and depression.

It is generally accepted that by overcoming the persistently stressful problems that occur as a result of chronic pain – such as insomnia, depression, or anxiety - you can make some headway in reversing these changes. You might not be able to change them entirely, but enough to reduce the pain itself. At the very least, these stressors must be addressed as a part of your overall treatment.

We’ve seen how overcoming stressors related to pain makes life easier, even if the chronic pain is still present. Overcoming stress leads to better coping, which in turn makes chronic pain more tolerable.

Obviously, these problems are not easy to overcome. They take work and motivation, but are nonetheless possible. By overcoming stress, you will get better and your pain will become more bearable. It is for these reasons that we at Precision focus on stress in addition to the chronic physical pain in your life.

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