Is Stress A Leading Cause Of Chronic Pain In The Body
Based on research studies, chronic pain does not just happen due to physical injury. It also happens because of stress.
Physical pain due to stress is most familiar with people who have experienced a severe level of trauma and even had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder . These people are at higher risk of experiencing chronic pain.
Q: What About Energy Levels
Dr. Sinha: Chronic stress can also make you tired. Your adrenal glands act like battery packs they provide energy-producing substances such as adrenaline on demand, a key part of the stress response. Unfortunately, many people overuse these limited battery reserves with endless work and personal demands, leaving them depleted. The result: fatigue.
The Impact Of Chronic Stress
Everyday stress can have a negative impact on multiple areas of your life. However, when the stressful situation passes, you may find that things return to normal even if you didnt do anything to address your stress. This isnt the healthiest way to get through stress, but it happens this way for some people.
However, if youre experiencing chronic stress, its not going to just go away. It may not be tied to a specific situation in your life. Instead, it might be the result of poor habits or not knowing how to deal with past trauma. It will not just go away if left untreated.
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Stress Reponses And Their Physiological Influence
Our ancestors’ primary stressors involved a fight for survival or to the death against a predator or aggressor and the nature of the stress was an intense, acute physiological response .
However, after this brief, but stressful encounter, what followed was ample recovery to return to baseline .
This allowed each physiological system time to restore and regenerate itself after fighting to maintain homeostasis.
, todays stress generally involves lower-intensity, sustained psychological stressors that sometimes never go away but accumulate .
For example, you might sleep through your alarm and wake up in a panic late for your meeting, skip breakfast, get delayed by a slow commute, arrive late for a presentation, get reprimanded by your boss, then finally make it to your office whereupon you receive a call that your child is sick and needs to be picked up from school sound familiar?
These sustained stressors, although smaller individually, accumulate and deny the body that needed time to repair, recover and replenish.
Nonetheless, in either situation the body activates its stress response in similar ways, albeit it at different intensities. And while we are familiar with many responses , we may be unaware of others that merit concern .
Ever wonder why you get dry mouth when nervous, why a dog urinates when scared or why you need to run to the bathroom before a big race?
What Is Cortisol And What Are Its Benefits
Cortisol is an essential hormone released from the adrenal gland in response to stress and provides many benefits:
- Sparing liver glycogen to ensure blood glucose preservation necessary for important physiological events like oxygen transportation to the brain by our red blood cells can only fuel themselves using glucose.
- Promoting the breakdown of stored fat within our adipose tissue to be used as fuel by muscle cells.
- Promoting fat uptake into muscle cells during activity.
- Suppressing continued cytokine synthesis and release following the acute phase of inflammation a normal and healthy process. In other words, cortisol helps protect the body from potential detrimental consequences of an overactive immune response by acting in immunosuppressant capacity.
These events are modulated by and during the presence of cortisol under acute bouts of stress. Now, consider how exposure to stress has changed in humans living today. We have shifted from experiencing infrequent, acute, and short bursts of stress followed by periods of recovery to a lifestyle of sustained episodes of stress that do not include periods of recovery, as illustrated below.
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Stress And Immune System Functions
The relationship between stress and the immune system has been considered for decades . The prevailing attitude between the association of stress and immune system response has been that people under stress are more likely to have an impaired immune system and, as a result, suffer from more frequent illness . Also, old anecdotes describing resistance of some people to severe disease using the power of the mind and their thought processes, has promoted this attitude . In about 200 AC, Aelius Galenus declared that melancholic women are more likely to have cancer than women who were more positive and exposed to less stress . This may be the first recorded case about the relationship between the immune system and stress. In an old study in the early 1920’s, researchers found that the activity of phagocytes in tuberculosis decreased when emotional stress was induced. In fact, it was also suggested that living with stress increases the risk of tuberculosis by suppressing the immune system . Following this study, other researchers suggested that the probability of disease appearance increases following a sudden, major, and extremely stressful life style change .
A Brief Review Of Chronic Stress
The American Psychological Association explains that extended, ongoing stress turns into chronic stress when left unchecked. Chronic stress not only complicates the process of a healthy stress response, but this type of stress also impacts your ability to function in everyday life. If youre already dealing with specific issues in life, chronic stress can worsen these issues and create new ones of their own.
Because of the way that chronic stress affects you across the board, its pretty safe to say that you dont want it. However, chronic stress doesnt materialize overnight. As a matter of fact, some form of stress is typically ongoing for a while before it becomes chronic. It goes without saying that the longer that stress lasts, the more dangerous it becomes, and the higher your likelihood of experiencing chronic stress is.
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Should I Get A Stress Test
A stress test doesnt measure the stress in your life, but it does measure the stress on your heart, or rather how hard your heart is working and what it looks like when youre walking very fast on a steep incline on a treadmill. People usually get a stress test when they have multiple risk factors for heart disease, or if theyve been having certain symptoms like chest pain or palpitations, says Haythe.
Is Stress Always Bad
Feeling stressed can be normal, healthy and helpful depending on the situation. Stress is the fight-or-flight response that gets you through job interviews, impromptu speeches and those awkward encounters with your ex. In these situations, stress helps you to overcome a short-term challenge that you know you can handle. Its only a problem when its constant or the situation is out of your control. At times like these, its important to know how to cope with stress.
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Stress And The Function Of The Cardiovascular System
The existence of a positive association between stress and cardiovascular disease has been verified . Stress, whether acute or chronic, has a deleterious effect on the function of the cardiovascular system . The effects of stress on the cardiovascular system are not only stimulatory, but also inhibitory in nature . It can be postulated that stress causes autonomic nervous system activation and indirectly affects the function of the cardiovascular system . If these effects occur upon activation of the sympathetic nervous system, then it mainly results in an increase in heart rate, strength of contraction, vasodilation in the arteries of skeletal muscles, a narrowing of the veins, contraction of the arteries in the spleen and kidneys, and decreased sodium excretion by the kidneys . Sometimes, stress activates the parasympathetic nervous system . Specifically, if it leads to stimulation of the limbic system, it results in a decrease, or even a total stopping of the heart-beat, decreased contractility, reduction in the guidance of impulses by the heart stimulus-transmission network, peripheral vasodilatation, and a decline in blood pressure . Finally, stress can modulate vascular endothelial cell function and increase the risk of thrombosis and ischemia, as well as increase platelet aggregation .
How To Cope With Stress
If you experience symptoms of stress, taking the proper steps to manage it could have many health benefits. Effective coping strategies include:
- Spending time with family and friends
- Practising calming techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing or tai chi
- Exercising regularly
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep
- Setting aside time for hobbies or relaxing activities, such as listening to music or reading a book
In todays fast-paced world, stress is common but your mind and body can pay a steep price if it is not kept in check. Handling stress correctly may help you feel happier and healthier in the long run. To learn more ways that stress can affect your overall health.
Dr Jeena Devasia, DDS, earned her undergraduate degree from Virginia Commonwealth University . She has participated in multiple Mission of Mercy projects and is a dentist at McLean DDS.
Disclaimer: Psychreg is mainly for information purposes only. Materials on this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on this website. Read our full disclaimer here.
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Types Of Stress And What You Can Do To Fight Them
The extent to which stress impacts our lives is hard to fathom. This is more true than ever in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, 78% of American adults say the coronavirus pandemic is a significant source of stress in their lives.
Although levels of stress have increased globally in the past few years, the conversation around stress is growing. And with this growing conversation comes more insight into the causes of stress and how we experience stress differently.
You may think of stress as simply a feeling of being overwhelmed. But there are different types of stress, each with its own physical and mental consequences.
Lets explore the different types of stress, their causes, and what you can do to fight them. Effective stress management begins with recognizing the specific types of stress affecting you.
Q: Does Stress Make You Age Faster
Dr. Sinha: As if heart disease, brain fog, lack of sleep and fatigue arent enough, chronic stress can also cause you to age more quickly than normal.
One study compared a group of women caring for disabled children with a group of women whose children had no disabilities. In particular, the researchers compared their telomeres, protective sections of DNA that are known to be a genetic marker for aging. Telomeres routinely wither and get shorter with time, but external factors, including stress, can accelerate this process.
The study found more prominent premature aging in the high-stress mothers caring for disabled children. In fact, it translated into that group being 10 years older at a cellular level than the other group, who were the same chronological age. The 35-year-old stressed mothers looked closer to 45.
Bottom line? Keep an eye on how stressed you are and what you can do about it. Your body will thank you.
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What Are Some Symptoms Of Stress
Stress affects everyone differently. Some ways that chronic or long-term stress affects women include:
- Pain, including back pain
- Acne and other skin problems, like rashes or hives
- Feeling like you have no control
- Overeating or not eating enough
- Being easily angered
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Less interest in sex than usual
How Stress Can Affect Your Overall Health
Psychreg on Health Psychology
Stress is a normal part of life. The human body is designed to experience stress and react accordingly. However, it can have serious consequences if a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation. As a result, the individual may feel overworked and develop stress-related tension. This unrelenting strain on the body may contribute to additional health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or certain mental disorders.
According to BetterHelp, if you frequently feel frazzled and overwhelmed, there are strategies that can help you to bring your nervous system back into balance. Protect yourself by learning how to recognise the signs and symptoms of stress and take the necessary steps to manage it. Read on to learn how stress can affect your overall health.
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When To Get Help
If youâre struggling with stress and donât know how to cope, you may want to seek help from a specialist. Your primary care doctor can be a good starting point. They can help you figure out if the signs and symptoms youâre experiencing are from a medical issue or an anxiety disorder.
They can also refer you to a mental health expert and provide you with additional resources and tools.
Some of the signs itâs time to get help:
- Your work or school performance is suffering
- Youâre using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco to deal with your stress
- Your eating or sleeping habits change significantly
- Youâre behaving in ways that are dangerous to yourself, including self-mutilation
- You have irrational fears and anxiety
- You have trouble getting through your daily responsibilities
- Youâre withdrawing from friends and family
- You think about suicide or hurting other people
If your stress has gotten to the point that youâre thinking of hurting yourself or someone else, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911. You can also call one of the free suicide prevention helplines, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You donât need to give your name.
Central Nervous And Endocrine System
Stress can trigger your bodys fight, flight, or freeze response, which is controlled by your central nervous system .
When stress is perceived, your brain sends signals throughout your body. Youll likely experience an uptick in adrenaline and cortisol , as well as an increase in your heart rate. This reaction prepares you to face the challenge ahead.
Your CNS will likely go back to business as usual once the stress has passed. In cases of chronic stress, however, your body may remain in a defensive response.
This can contribute to behaviors like turning to drugs or alcohol for support, over or under-eating, or feeling anxious or depressed which can all, in turn, create additional stress.
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Surprising Ways Stress Can Affect Your Body
Everyone experiences stress, but not everyone experiences it in the same way. While stress may be best known for taking a toll on the mind, sometimes physical symptoms are your bodys way of telling you that your brain is under too much stress.
Patients come in with real physical symptoms, but they arent caused by any illness, says Loretta Howitt, MD, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanentes Los Angeles Medical Center. Stress is the underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
Whether you have physical symptoms, mental and emotional symptoms, or both, finding healthy ways to manage stress can help you find relief.
Sexuality And Reproductive System
Stress is exhausting for both the body and mind. Its not unusual to lose your desire when youre under constant stress. While short-term stress may cause men to produce more of the male hormone testosterone, this effect doesnt last.
If stress continues for a long time, a mans testosterone levels can begin to drop. This can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may also increase risk of infection for male reproductive organs like the prostate and testes.
For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. It can lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods. Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.
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Table One: Stress Response Influence On Physiological Systems
Immune function sustained long-term
While these events are undoubtedly tolerable for a brief period , think about these events’ consequences during a sustained bout of stress.
For example, blood clots more rapidly during an acute episode of stress to prevent excessive bleeding, but think to the health risk of a stroke or embolism if this effect lasted indefinitely?
The Effects Of Stress On Your Body
Youre sitting in traffic, late for an important meeting, watching the minutes tick away. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: Send in the stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your bodys fight or flight response. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Yet if your stress response doesnt stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include:
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