How Does Chronic Stress Make Your Chronic Pain Worse And Your Nervous System More Sensitive

This week we are going to look at chronic stress and the affect it has on your sensitive nervous system and chronic pain

Hey guys welcome back! For over a month we have been introducing the chronic pain issue and reframing our thoughts on pain so we can continue to heal the sensitive nervous system together

This module will highlight what happens when you have been experiencing chronic stress by looking at when the lion, from the last module, never leaves the room and follows you for at least a month

The chemical and stress systems causing the body to be out of balance for a month takes a serious toll on the nervous system, body tissue sensativity, and brain. The primary player is the stress hormone called cortisol 

What causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released?

  • Stress of any kind
  • Depression
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Fear
  • Surgery
  • Pain

Cortisol plays a role in all of these things

  • Regulating your body’s stress response
  • Helping control your body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, or your metabolism
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Helping control your sleep-wake cycle
  • Short and long term memories creation 
  • Ability to learn 


What is the link between you and your pain with cortisol and stress?

Cortisol has been linked to Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Lyme's Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity


What happens when cortisol has been released for long periods of time

  • Appetite changes leading to weight gain, especially in your face and abdomen
  • Fatty deposits between your shoulder blades
  • Wide, purple stretch marks on your abdomen (belly)
  • Muscle weakness in your upper arms and thighs
  • Muscle wasting 
  • High blood sugar, which often turns into Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Excessive hair growth (hirsutism) in people assigned female at birth
  • Weak bones (osteoporosis) and fractures
  • Reproductive isssues
  • Weakens your immune system 

How does cortisol specefically affect my chronic pain

  • Body aches all over, tissues have increased sensitivty 
  • Bowel and bladder issues
  • Decreases your bodies ability to produce inflammation 
  • Decreases blood flow
  • Delays tissue healing
  • Even though it stops inflammation production it can leave inflammation in an area due to other mechanisms 


How does a stressor cause physical stress to our bodies?

When our body experiences a stress and it starts to present as a physical illness the way this happens can be explained through the general adaptation syndrome

The three stages of GAS are:

  • Alarm reaction
  • Resistance
  • Exhaustion

Alarm reaction stage
A stress signal is sent to a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus enables the release of hormones, mainly, adrenaline and cortisol. This process happens outside of your control by an automatic part of your nevous system (autonomic nervous system) called the sympathetic or the fight or flight system we described last week. This is preparing you to fight or flight away from the stressor. 

Next the body tries to balance the changes that happened during the alarm reaction stage (remember homeostasis we talked about). Now this is still happening mostly outside of your control with the autonomic system, except this time it is controlled by the parasympathetic system (this is nicknamed the rest and digest repsonse). This system is trying to lower the amount of cortisol produced, and bring the heart rate and blood pressure back to normal. If the stressful situation comes to an end during this reaction the body will return to normal. Now when the lion is still in the room the body will stay in a state of alert, and stress hormones continue to be produced. 

Exhaustion stage
After an extended period of stress the body has depleted its energy resources by continually trying but failing to recover from the initial alarm reaction stage. This where you will experience everything we listed above. 

Eventually you can get stress-related health conditions

  • Heart disease
  • Ashtma
  • Obsity 
  • Diabetes
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Alhziemer's disease
  • Accelerated aging
  • Premature Death
  • Chronic Pain

Home Work

Pull Up The Course Calendar

This week we will be focused on trying to do 11 mins of cardio for 4 days, playing the rehab board game 2 times, practicing mindfulness meditation for 1-5 minutes, doing a 7 minute yoga flow and you will be assigned to apply one unique way to lower stress (we have a list below, but it could be anything). You will want to read our blog listed below on How Mediation Can Help Your Pain. Reference Week 10 in your pain recovery weekly calnedar 

We lsited other things you can do to help with stress that is playing a part in your chronic pain

  • Buy an adult coloring book
  • Laugh more
  • Use a stress ball
  • Get a fidget toy 
  • Take a relaxing bath
  • Get counseling 
  • Journal
  • Connect with others (walking groups are great and you have a great foundation of movement that let's you join one now)
  • Gardening 
  • Listen to relaxating music
How Meditation Can Help Your Pain Pain Recovery Weekly Calendar

We are excited about what this class will do to reframe how you look at pain, which will get you back to doing the things you love in daily life again

We are so proud of you for undertaking this course and taking your pain head on

This process can be a lot, so do not hesitate to slow down to your own pace. You are not alone. If you are stuck and need more help do not even hesitate to reach out to us.

Your life is waiting for you again on the other side of this course, till next time guys 🙂

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