There are a lot of reasons to be stressed during these uncertain times. Stress is something most people ‘live with’ but do not manage. We feel stress for many reasons, from day-to-day stressful occurrences tied to work, family life, and traffic. To more complex stressors like social commitments and financial concerns. If left unchecked, high levels of stress may cause many issues to our body, including a decrease in mental health and an increase in the level of pain we feel. To understand how stress and pain are connected, we must first look at how stress manifests within our bodies. 

How your body responds to stress

When we’re stressed, a variety of different physiological responses occur. You may notice your heart rate increasing, or that your palms get sweaty, even that your vision becomes ‘narrowed in’ as the rush of hormones causes you to ‘switch on’ the body’s stress response. This cascade of responses within our body is commonly referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. These responses occur in order for us to quickly react to situations your body has determined may be dangerous. Emotional stressors like work and financial concerns can cause the same reactions to occur.

Once short-term stress becomes chronic, our body begins to falter in maintaining it’s normal status quo. As our body struggles to maintain normal function, all our body systems try to adapt. During these adaptations, many functions get their ‘wires’ crossed including our hunger cues and how we perceive pain. Think about being really stressed out, often to cope with these feelings we don’t eat or overeat to cope with the stress. Misgauging our pain perception also can result due to the following reason. 

What is the stress-pain cycle?

Commonly referred to as the stress-pain cycle, the occurrence of chronic stress can cause perceptions of pain to be higher. This can result in common pains like stubbing a toe or underlying pains like chronic back pain to be felt with more intensity. When we have high levels of pain, our ‘fight or flight’ stress response to become overactivated in order to protect our body. As it over activates, the self-feeding cycle of stress and pain continues on.

How to break the cycle

If you suffer from high levels of stress or pain, you may feel like there’s no way for you to get out of this never ending cycle. Developing physical resilience techniques is a great first step down the path of managing emotional (and physical) stressors to break this cycle.

What is physical resilience you might be asking? Physical resilience refers to one’s ability to ‘bounce back’ from adverse circumstances that cause us stress. Whatever these circumstances are, from normal daily stressors to accidents and illness, our ability to recover from these challenges in a fast and effective manner is how one’s physical resilience is measured.

If you feel like you’re someone who struggles with managing day-to-day stress or you have trouble ‘bouncing back’ after a bout of the flu or when recovering from a surgery, begin focusing on improving your physical resilience. 

Begin by addressing the root of the problem

Living with pain can be unbearable, managing your stress levels may be one way you can start to decrease your pain. Developing physical resilience techniques to break the stress-pain cycle won’t happen overnight, but you can start building these techniques today. Start by understanding how stress plays a role in your daily life to develop a plan to combat it. If you would like more information on how Telespine can help you begin to develop physical resilience techniques contact us.

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