“Pain is a relatively objective, physical phenomenon; suffering is our psychological resistance to what happens. Events may create physical pain, but they do not in themselves create suffering. Resistance creates suffering.” ―Dan Millman
Dr. Steven Stanos is the medical director of the Center for Pain Management at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He explains that "Because pain is regulated by the nervous system, the brain is a key player in how we perceive pain. The brain is always trying to inhibit pain signals. But if you're stressed, simply put, the brain's ability to filter these pain signals is affected in a bad way and pain can be increased." In this way, mismanaged stress leads to the experience of more pain, more often.
Chronic pain is typically caused by injury, nerve disorder, or neuralgia. Yet, sometimes the discomfort long outlives the healing of visible trauma. And many individuals experience ongoing pain without a traceable physical cause. If you have unexplained chronic pain, then you may want to look at how you are managing your stress. Mismanaging emotional stress can lead to physical pain or discomfort. Even if you do know the cause of your pain, it is possible that it is being compounded by stressful emotions, hopelessness, or anxiety.
Here’s a familiar example of physical pain being caused by emotional discomfort. Have you ever been really nervous before a big job interview or doctor’s appointment? How did your stomach feel? It is not uncommon to trace stomach or bowel discomfort to emotional unrest. It is also generally accepted that headaches and tension migraines can be caused by stress. Therefore, it isn’t so far of a leap to recognize that chronic pain may have an emotional source like stress. Any energetic stress you experience is in some way exhibited in your cellular body.
Studies show that when we are stressed, we find ourselves tensing up both our minds and our muscles. Tense muscles strain and tire more easily than when we are relaxed and pliable. Often this tension is caused by mismanaged or unresolved emotions. Left unchecked, your body will continue to release stress hormones, resulting in increased blood pressure, reduced immune function, and painful discomfort.
Sometimes pain is a signal from your body, reminding you that there is unresolved trauma. Experts suggest CranioSacral therapy to calm your nervous system. Additional strategies for reducing and managing stress include visualization and mindfulness training to change your perception, getting more rest, exercising regularly, scheduling daily self-care, eating well, improving your work-life balance, and seeking guidance in resolving stored trauma.
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What To Remember:
Stress can negatively affect the way your body processes pain signals.
Mismanaged stress can lead to chronic discomfort, tension, and pain.
Pain caused by emotional stress may be resolved through positive self-care, craniosacral therapy, and energetic healing.
Ahmad, Asma et al. (December, 2015). Pain in Times of Stress. Retrieved from National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Geha, Paul et al. (August, 2017). Chronic Pain and Chronic Stress: Two Sides of the Same Coin? Retrieved from PubMed.com.
Stress Symptoms. (2019). Retrieved from WebMd.com.
Link, Rachael. (January, 2018). 11 Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress. Retrieved from healthline.com.
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