The American Psychological Association notes that most Americans experience moderate to high-stress levels. Half of APA’s 2010 Stress in America survey participants indicated the economy, employment, or financial instability caused stress. The APA recently noted these pressures have increased significantly over the last five years leading to a serious concern over the physical and emotional well-being of Americans. Studies also link stress to chronic pain. Here is how stress relates to pain perception, and how Maryland Pain and Wellness will help.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a human response to physical, emotional, or mental changes in one’s body or living environment. Many things cause stress, from the death of a loved one to the loss of a job. There are also health concerns that lead to anxiety, like the thought of illness to an actual diagnosis. There are also happy events like the birth of a child or a job promotion that drives stress levels.
How Does Stress Influence Pain?
Stress influences pain perception in two primary ways. Stress-induced analgesia is influenced by gender, age, and encounters with pain, stress, or provocations that activate the descending pain modulatory system that suppresses pain. Stress-induced hyperalgesia, when stress, anxiety, and fear are extant, it acerbates pain and influences its intensity, duration, and cause.
One must also question how stress and pain affect a patient’s psyche. As the stress level rises, the body generally responds in what is called the general adaption syndrome (GAS) that defines how the body undergoes psychological changes in three stages after stressful events. Learning to cope with stress will help a person also deal with the underlying response to pain perception.
- Alarm Reaction (Fight-Or-Flight)
The alarm reaction stage is defined as the onset of stress-related symptoms
that the body uses to protect itself from actions, activities, or emotions. The body responds with the release of stress hormones called cortisol, and the heart rate rises and increases adrenaline output and pain perception.
After the experience of an initial shock, the body naturally tries to mend itself by decreasing cortisol production while stabilizing blood pressure and heart rate. The body will still remain attentive to the cause and will adapt in the resistance stage if it is unable to overcome it, which causes long-term signs like moodiness, inattentiveness, and irritability.
If the resistance stage does not regulate itself, and the underlying stress continues, the body will then enter the exhaustion stage and cause a person to suffer the physical, mental, and emotional responses. Symptoms of the exhaustion stage include anxiety, depression, lethargy, and fatigue
How Does Stress Increase Pain Sensitivity?
The stress system is closely aligned with the nervous system, including peripheral and central areas that interact with the brain. It is the modification to these symptoms as it reacts to stress that stimulates pain perception in the body. Medical studies also show that stress and pain share overlapping contributors because of physiological and conceptual factors that regulate health.
While the body has a natural response system, a person will benefit from stress and pain management care while in the alarm or resistance stages as it will prevent long-term impairment. We have the finest pain management specialists, and we offer mental health specialists to help you to overcome your stress, anxiety, or depression as a preventive pain perception practice.