Search
  • Dr. Heather Robinson, ND

Stress Series: When stress is painful


Stress Series: When stress is painful

After being in practice for just over a year now, I have started to see certain patterns emerge. One of those patterns is stress. Regardless of a person’s age, gender, cultural practice, religion etc., it is something that unites almost everyone in the North American world. While it is a commonality between us all, the degree to which we experience stress and how it manifests varies greatly. For some people it is shown through their skin as acne or eczema; for some it is digestive concerns on both sides of the spectrum (if you know what I mean); for others, it is physical pain. This particular manifestation of stress is something I wanted to learn more about, both for the benefit of my patients but also to more deeply understand the mind-body connection.

When I say ‘stress’, what I mean is persistent discomfort ranging from anxiety to depression (clinical or otherwise). Stress can be particularly debilitating particularly if t is chronic and unrelenting. The association of pain aggravating anxiety/depression also applies inversely, that is, stress expresses itself as pain.

When I say ‘pain’, what I mean is persistent discomfort ranging from tension to aching, pain. Pain can also be completely debilitating particularly if it is chronic and unrelenting. The association of stress manifesting as pain also applies inversely, that is, pain heightens stress.


So, here we are stuck in a cycle of stress – whatever that looks like for you – and pain. This is most widely known as nervous tension, which is “ a neuromuscular reaction to anxiety, stress or emotional conflict (conscious or subconscious)”. There are ENDLESS mechanisms that are described in the literature explaining how stress impacts tension and pain in the body, so I won’t get too nerdy here. Instead, here are some things you can do to help improve stress and how you feel it.

What Can Help

  1. Awareness: Just the awareness that your pain/tension is related to your anxiety/stress can be comforting (depending on the person). But knowing that it is related means that by addressing anxiety, we can start addressing pain.

  2. Magnesium bisglycinate: Magnesium is the ‘off switch’ for the body, physically and mentally. Our soil in North America also happens to be virtually devoid of this essential mineral.

  3. Deep breathing and mindfulness: Engage the parasympathetic nervous system. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve ,which switches you out of fight or flight and into rest and digest.

  4. Adaptogenic herbs (stay tuned): Herbs that help your adrenal glands modulate cortisol (your stress hormone).

  5. Nutrition: Reducing inflammation in the gut means reducing inflammation everywhere, especially the brain (reduce the burden. Have a good dose of dark chocolate (over 85%), green tea, berries, spices like curcumin/ginger and beets to modulate inflammation at all levels relevant to mental and physical health.

Of course, we acknowledge that there is a mechanical or structural cause for pain and the importance that is ruled out before assuming it is related to stress/anxiety.

References:

Meeus, Mira, et al. "The role of mitochondrial dysfunctions due to oxidative and nitrosative stress in the chronic pain or chronic fatigue syndromes and fibromyalgia patients: peripheral and central mechanisms as therapeutic targets?." Expert opinion on therapeutic targets 17.9 (2013): 1081-1089.

Heiden, Marina, et al. "Autonomic activity, pain, and perceived health in patients on sick leave due to stress-related illnesses." Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science 40.1 (2005): 3-16.

Heiden, Marina, et al. "Autonomic activity, pain, and perceived health in patients on sick leave due to stress-related illnesses." Integrative Physiological & Behavioral Science 40.1 (2005): 3-16.

Dr. Bob Scott, ND. "Neuroinflammation." 10, November. 2018, Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Toronto Congress Centre.

#stress #pain #anxiety #nervoustension #inflammation #brain

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon

© 2016 created with love,

the  Eternal Dreamers.

Disclaimer: Any information on this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used in place of professional medical advice.

Always seek the advice of a qualified health care practitioner with any questions or health concerns you may have.

 

This site was designed with the
.com
website builder. Create your website today.
Start Now