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Stress and Chronic Pain

Updated: Jan 4, 2022

Pain and stress

Pain and stress are closely related even though one is associated with the physical body and the other is associated more with the mind. Stress can cause people to feel physical pain in their body, and experiencing pain can in turn cause people to have more stress. Many people who experience pain and aches in their body are often people who are stressed from work and other stressors in life.


Stress can come from many different sources, because it is a normal part of life. Stress can help us learn how to cope and deal with situations, as well as help us get things done. However, too much stress can cause a lot of problems on both our mental and physical health. For example, stress can make us feel fatigued, have a low mood, have bad appetite and can disrupt our sleep. These symptoms of stress can cause us to experience physical pain in our bodies due to the poor sleep and other poor lifestyle habits.

Chronic Pain

Some people who live with chronic pain will experience stress because of the pain, as it is a very unpleasant thing to live with. Chronic pain can affect daily life a lot, such as affecting work, participation in social activities, hobbies and more. Being unable to do some of these tasks or activities can contribute to more negative feelings such as frustration, disappointment and anger. Feeling mental stress as a result of these emotions can then also increase the pain that the person experiences.

Our Response to Stress

When we are stressed, the brain releases hormones that help us react to the stress. These hormones include norepinephrine and cortisol which deal with stress. These hormones also activate the sympathetic nervous system which help you respond to danger by increasing heart rate and blood pressure. This activation can makes you feel tired and it can also result in muscle tension, aches, headaches and high blood pressure. Therefore, stress can lead to pain in the body and worsen pain if someone already has chronic pain. Having stress is not necessarily a bad thing and a little bit of stress is okay. Nevertheless, when chronic stress is ongoing in our lives, it can cause many serious health problems such as mental health issues, cardiovascular disease, obesity, menstrual problems and more.

The importance of managing stress for chronic pain

Stress management is a way of managing chronic pain and this is done through reducing stress. Sometimes, chronic pain may linger for a while, so a way to make life easier while experiencing chronic pain is to deal with the stresses in life. If you are able to overcome stress, this means your mood and sleep quality can improve. Even with chronic pain, life can become better when you can manage your stress and reduce the stressors in your life. Learning how to cope with the chronic pain can also make it more tolerable and you will find that it is easier to deal with the pain if the other parts of your life such as your mental health, mood, and sleep improve.

How to Cope with Stress

Everyone will have different ways to cope with stress and different amounts of stress require different ways to cope with them. It is important to recognise what the cause of your stress is and whether you can remove or change that cause. Sometimes, we have to avoid situations that may cause us stress, or we can change our habits so that it helps reduce stress.

A good way to cope with stress is to talk to family or friends so that you can get support and advice from them that may help you. Doing regular physical exercise and activities can help you feel better and help you relieve stress because of the release of chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Relaxation and being mindful can also help to calm down and reduce stress, so learning these techniques can also be beneficial.


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