How Does Stress Make Your Chronic Pain Worse And Your Nervous System More Sensitive
Comment and let us know if you were able to find a way to move for 5 mins and how many days you were able to move for? How was the rehab board game?
Here are some crazy stress facts
- The lowest stress levels are recorded in adults older than 72
- 80% of millennials are stressed about money
- Teenagers report a stress level of 5.8 out of 10 during the school year
- One in five college students has thought about suicide
- 83% of Americans are worried about the future of the nation
- Nearly 25% of people report feeling extreme stress during the holidays
- 45% of college students seek counseling due to stress
- Around 70% of students are often or always stressed about schoolwork
- About 14% of US citizens exercise regularly to handle stress
- Stress is controlled by your nervous system
- Stress can cause headaches
- Stress causes muscular aches and tightness
- Stress can impact mental performance
- Stress can keep you from sleeping at night
"You are here reading this blog and everything is quit, life is good and you are fully relaxed. Now what would happen if a massive roaring african lion jumped in the room... Obviously, you are not going to nap, check your posture, wonder what is for dinner, will you worry about healing tissue or fighting infections... There's a lion in the room
Now our bodies works the same way. In our bodies there are various bodily systems: muscle, pain, sleep, immune, sympathetic, reproductive, digestive etc... When your body is not perceiving a threat and everything is good, your bodies systems are in balance (homeostasis)
However, when a big threatening lion jumps in the room to eat you, your systems prioritize to survival and your bodies natural balance is disrupted. You are wide awake, ready to run or fight, and restoration tasks like healing and digestion are put on the back burner. This is normal and happens to all of us. Think about the last time you were afriad and how your body responded"
Luckily, a zoe keeper comes by and removes the lion in the room (this is what we do in our office with newly injured patients with PEACE & LOVE treatment). The threat is gone, you can let out a sigh of relief and start to calm down and relax again. Your body systems will relax and the balance will be restored. You think this is ridicious, this is the third lion in my house this week
*metaphor is from pain neuroscience education
The lion is always by your side, from the moment you wake up to when you close your eyes at night, if you are even able to go to sleep. All your bodily systems are working on overdrive in attempt to protect, but creating a paradox or cycle of pain you can not escape. The lion now has been in your for as long as you can remember.
Now you are getting
- Mood swings
- Problems sleeping
- Sore and sensative tissues that are not the issue
- Memory changes
- Low libido
Now what would you do if a lion cub came in the room and you did not have a fear of lions? You would not freak out and you may even want to pet it. What am I getting at? With smaller threats your bodies chemcial stress systems do not need to be activated or ramped up. Knowing about your pain, how it all works and means, let's you keep perspective and can turn your massive lion into a petable cub... This is how education, backed up with movement as therapy balances back out your system that are affected by chronic pain.
When you start moving again you will start to notice
- Increase focus, concentration, memory and ability to sleep
- You will feel less sore and have less sensative tissues
The stress response that would happen with your body is fight, flight or freeze. This response comes from a part of your nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. Your body is wired this way to help you escape a threat, and it is preparing different areas of your body to be prepared to act to get you away from the stressor aka a lion in this case.
These are the areas that get activated to help you get away from the lion
- Adrenal gland
- You become alert
- Loss of reproductive interest
- Immune system shuts down temporarliy
Now pain is a reaction to a stressor, aka a perceived threat (remember the CEO brain has said your danger signals are legit and needs to be addressed). What are the pain lions in your life (these are the yellow flags we mentioned)?
- Anxiety and fear
- Different explanation of pain from different people, social media, doctors etc...
- Previous failed treatment attempts
- Constant stress
- Job issues
- Money concerns
Temporarly (we will look at chronic stress next lesson) adrenaline decreases our ability to feel pain, but shortly after this temporary blocking of pain a hormone reaction happens that aggravates the nervous system which results in a person having a pain response from stress, anxiety and fear. We have seen this with increased pain experiences during
- Litigation *slip and fall cases at work etc...
- Car wrecks
This week we will be focused on trying to do 10 mins of cardio for 4 days, playing the rehab board game 2 times, practicing mindfulness meditation for 1-5 minutes and doing a 7 Min Yoga Flow. You will want to read our blog listed below on How Mediation Can Help Your Pain. Reference Week 9 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
- Use a stress ball
- Take a relaxing bath
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 🙂