When you have chronic pain, every area of your life can feel like a struggle. It can limit what you do on a daily basis, and you might never know when a flare-up will occur.
Now, more than ever, you might deal with daily pain due to stress and uncertainty. There is so much going on in the world that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.
It’s important to note that connection—how stress can trigger flare-ups and make your pain worse. It’s not just a coincidence that stress and pain occur together. Stress is one of the most important reasons your pain might not be getting better, though many people don’t often make this link.
Knowing more about how stress and anxiety can contribute to your pain will make it easier for you to understand what triggers you the most, and how you can manage those triggers. Let’s take a closer look at some things that could contribute to pain and thus hindering your healing.
Anxiety and Stress
You probably already know that when you feel overwhelmed, your pain flares up. But, do you know why?
Anxiety and stress activate the “fight-or-flight” responses in the brain. When you’re faced with a stressful situation, your brain’s defense mechanisms turn on to protect you. Unfortunately, that can also cause muscle tension, shallow breathing, and a rapid heartbeat. When your body suddenly tenses up like that, it can trigger pain in your body.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time. But learning how to manage your symptoms of stress and anxiety can help to keep your pain levels lower.
Trying Too Hard to Get Better
If you have chronic pain that impacts your life on a regular basis, of course, you’re going to do everything in your power to get better.
Unfortunately, being hypervigilant about healing can do more harm than good. You can actually try too hard to get better. In doing so, your hypervigilance could trigger your fight-or-flight response just as easily as anxiety.
By focusing all of your efforts on getting better, you’ll end up causing yourself significant stress. Now that you know how stress can trigger more pain, try to strike a balance between healing and resting. When you’re willing to take a breath and try to relax rather than focus solely on how to feel better, you might end up reaching your goals, after all.
Avoiding Certain Activities
There are many ways chronic pain can make you feel “limited”. But, some of those limitations might be more in your head than you realize.
Are there certain activities you avoid because you think they’ll cause you pain? Maybe you experienced a flare-up doing something once so you haven’t taken a chance on it again. The brain will connect that activity with fear, and stress. So, even if it wouldn’t typically be something to trigger pain, your brain can condition itself to cause pain.
Think of Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to this type of trigger. Your brain is more in control of your pain than you might realize, and “deconditioning” yourself from these thoughts and notions can be difficult.
How Therapy Can Help
If you struggle with chronic pain, you’re certainly not alone. While physical treatment may be necessary, therapy can help you deal with some of the brain-based, like stress and anxiety, preventing your pain from getting better.
When you’re able to learn more about your fight-or-flight response and how your brain responds to stress, you can learn better ways to manage those emotions and feel more in control. To learn more about Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT), check out our chronic pain therapy page. Feel free to contact us today for more information and to find out how therapy can help you.