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Why Managing Stress Is Crucial to Managing Chronic Pain

Why Managing Stress Is Crucial to Managing Chronic Pain

If you struggle with chronic pain, it's time to talk about the role of stress. Even when pain begins from an injury or health condition, stress adds to the problem and makes it harder to overcome pain. You need stress management to ease your pain.

When stress and pain first begin, they serve as early warning systems alerting you to potential problems. But when either one overstays their welcome, they cause extensive health problems.

The two also share a close relationship. Stress causes pain, and pain triggers stress, creating a downward spiral that's hard to overcome without integrative care from Dr. Jelena Petkovic.

Dr. Jelena creates a stress-management plan that targets the source of the problem, easing your stress so you can get optimal relief from your chronic pain.

Let's explore what happens when you're stressed and how it affects your pain.

The stress response explained

Stress occurs when you face a challenging situation. Every time you feel stressed out, your body has the same response whether your stress comes from a traffic jam, financial difficulties, or parenting struggles.

As soon as you’re stressed, your feelings immediately activate your brain. Then your brain sends signals that trigger the release of norepinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol. This reaction, called the fight-or-flight response, energizes your body so you can deal with the stressful situation.

During fight or flight, essential body systems get a boost, while nonvital organs temporarily shut down. For example, your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing increase, and more blood flows to your muscles. Other systems like digestion stop working.

After the immediate stress goes away, your body goes back to normal and you can relax. This response, called the rest-and-digest reaction, is the time when your body heals, muscles recover, your immune system recuperates, and every system in your body refreshes.

Chronic stress magnifies pain

Being chronically stressed affects your body in ways that may directly cause pain or make it hard, if not impossible, to get relief from the chronic pain of an existing health condition. Chronic stress affects pain through:

Impaired healing

Chronic stress stops your body from entering the rest-and-digest state. This hinders your ability to heal and overcome pain. Additionally, stress weakens your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections and disease.

Intensified pain

The ongoing fight-or-flight reaction makes muscles tighten or spasm, directly causing new pain or intensifying existing pain. Stress also lowers your threshold for pain and makes existing conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia flare up.

Increased inflammation

Persistently high cortisol leads to inflammation. The ongoing inflammation results in pain and also irritates your chronic pain.

Sensitized nerves

Increased cortisol may make your nerves more sensitive to internal and external activity, causing them to send more pain signals to your brain (and increasing your pain). For example, your nerves may pick up normal organ function and report it as painful.

Prolonged pain cycle

While stress alone can lead to pain, chronic pain also causes stress. This sets you up for an ongoing cycle of hard-to-treat pain. It's an incredible challenge to overcome chronic pain if you don't deal with stress and stop the cycle.

Coping with stress

Though your body has a remarkable ability to regulate stress, it's not prepared to take care of the imbalances that occur when you have chronic stress. We can help with individualized stress management that's customized to your unique needs.

Our holistic approach embraces many natural therapies to reduce your stress and restore your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We lay the groundwork by learning about the aspects of your life that contribute to your stress and ordering functional medicine testing.

Then we create a plan to address your challenges and ease your stress. For example, you may need dietary changes, supplements, or IV therapy. We may also recommend peptide therapy or alternative therapies proven to relieve stress, such as yoga and mindfulness meditation.

To learn more about stress management and how it helps ease chronic pain, call Dr. Jelena or book an appointment online with us.

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