Study finds acute psychological stress reduces body’s ability to withstand pain

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Pain Management | Sunday, January 17, 2016 - 12:00 PM

acute psychological stress reduces body's ability to withstand painLiving with pain can really impact your life and psychological stress has been found to play a role in the amount of pain you feel and experience. When you’re in pain, normal everyday activities can seem impossible, and over-the-counter pain-relievers only seem to offer a temporary fix.

New research has discovered what’s making your pain even worse. There is one significant factor standing between you and your ability to live a pain-free life. In fact, no matter how many remedies you try, if you have high levels psychological stress, you don’t stand a fighting chance to withstand pain.

New TAU study exposes effect of stress on the body’s pain modulation capabilities

effect of stress on the body's painWe all know that stress takes a toll on our bodies, both mentally and physically, but researchers at Tel Aviv University have now revealed how stress and physical pain are linked together.

Participants in the study underwent the Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST), which is a computer program which induces psychological stress. The test works by having participants answer a series of questions where they are told that the average person scores between 80 to 90 percent. In truth, the participant cannot score over 45 percent, therefore causing them unnecessary stress.

Before and after each MIST test, the participants went through numerous experiments to determine their level of tolerance against pain. For example, some participants were exposed to increased heat, indicating at what point they felt pain.

The researchers were expecting results to show that the more stress a participant was under, the higher their tolerance to pain. This is based on the notion that when an athlete becomes injured during a sport their pain tolerance goes up. Yet, the results revealed quite the opposite.
Those participants who experienced higher levels of psychological stress had a much lower threshold for pain.

Effect of stress on body

This research once again puts stress as a main cause behind many health ailments. And although stress may seem unavoidable, we should really work toward living less stressful lives, or at least attempt to cope much better.

If you already experience chronic pain, and find yourself highly stressed, you may also notice that your ability to cope with the pain is reduced. If it seems worse than before, it is. You continue to struggle, living with pain that’s preventing you from enjoying life.

Stress can influence all aspects of your body, including your stomach, sleeping patterns, eating habits, anxiety levels, and even behavior, according to the Mayo Clinic. The more irritable you become because of stress, the more your body will suffer.

Effective ways to cope and reduce stress in your life

Effective ways to cope and reduce stress It’s already bad enough to live with pain, but to experience that much more due to stress can feel as though you’re a prisoner in your own body. You need to seek out natural and effective ways to reduce stress in your everyday life.

Take up a relaxing hobby, like taking a stroll, going for a swim, or partaking in a yoga class. Meditation is also a great option as you can begin to clear your mind and focus on your breathing.

Even what you eat can add to your stress. Avoid too much alcohol, sugary and fatty foods. Studies have shown that the more fresh produce you eat, the calmer and happier you will feel.

Smoking, too, can intensify stress, so starting cutting down on your habit and consider getting help to quit entirely.

Pay attention to your stress. Start to narrow down what is causing stress in your life. Can you remove this aspect? How can you fix it? Is it time you look for advice from others? Determining the causes of your stress can help you develop better coping methods.

Whatever you do, the main message here is to bring your stress down. A calmer life is definitely a better one – and a much less painful one as well.

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