The Stress & Pain Cycle

How stress and pain are connected…


Did you know?

When life stresses arise such as, relationship or work issues, a deadline, grief, rejection, an injury etc., the blood flow in the brain shifts from the frontal lobes (conscious thinking) and into our limbic system (emotional/reactive state). Our brain can identify an “everyday stress” as a threat, which activates our autonomic nervous system into a fight or flight response, causing physiological changes in the body.  These changes may cause you to experience:

  • muscle tension /spasms
  • pain anywhere in the body
  • migraine & headaches
  • Gastro-intestinal & Genito-urinary system dysfunction eg. IBS, bladder issues
  • rapid heart rate or palpitations
  • neural symptoms: tingling, burning or numbness

These signs and symptoms, can also exacerbate the stress-pain cycle eg. fear and anxiety about the pain or symptom, further contributing to the response explained above. Over time, the central nervous system (brain & spine) can learn to continue to put the body into a hypervigilant state, causing the pain cycle to repeat.  This involves a sensitisation in areas of the brain involved in the pain experience, making activation of the cycle much easier.

How can you break the cycle? 

With proper therapeutic actions, the brain can “unlearn” pain, and help break the stress-pain cycle. Research has shown methods such as pain education and stress management strategies including journaling/writing, meditation, visualisation and cognitive behavioural therapy can help reduce the recurring pain cycle. Our Osteopaths use a biopsychosocial approach in their health care delivery which includes hands on manual techniques, lifestyle tips, pain education & management tools, and referring to other practitioners, such as our Naturopath Caroline or a psychologist, when needed. 

If you have pain that you are trying to manage, then reach out. Speak with someone from the team today or

book your appointment online today, by clicking here.

Source credit: Curable Health