Can Stress Affect My Pain?

Commonly patients fear that their symptoms are ‘all in their head,’ so their practitioner, friends, family or workplace aren’t going to believe them. This fear can be exacerbated when there seems to be no cause or explanation for their symptoms, or the pain has been chronic.

What is pain?

Pain presents in many different ways; however recent literature explains that the intensity of the pain will be proportional to the severity of the injury.  Nonetheless, pain acts as a warning sign from out nervous system to alert us to danger, not necessarily a direct indicator of damage done. The experience of pain can therefore mean many different things and is not exclusively an indication of tissue damage.

How can stress impact pain?

The nervous system works to interpret sensory information, hence when pain is considered to be a serious threat to the functionality of the body, the intensity of the pain will become worse.

The pain can intensify as a result of many situations, for example:

  • The origin of the pain is not well understood, enhancing the fear of the unknown
  • The nervous system is already in a state of hyper-arousal, as a result of being stressed or tired.
  • The pain or injury has the potential to have an impact on your quality of life, career, relationships or hobbies.
  • The cause of the injury was a traumatic event, such as a car accident.

What does this mean for my treatment?

Aside many physical treatments, it is also apparent that stress reduction strategies, mindfulness and addressing any underlying emotional trauma associated with pain can help on the path to recovery and improve overall quality of life. Working with your physiotherapist about pain management strategies will assist you in getting the most out of your life whilst dealing with long-term pain.

None of the information in this article is a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for advice on your individual injury.

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