How Chronic Stress Can Cause Body Pain
Stress and anxiety aren't just mental health issues. If you feel stressed or anxious much of the time, you may be more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflux, or other conditions. Chronic stress can also affect your muscles and joints, causing pain and inflammation.
4 Painful Symptoms or Conditions Caused or Worsened by Stress
Fifty-five percent of Americans report feeling stressed during the day, according to the American Stress Institute. That's no surprise considering how busy our lives are in the 21st century. Although stress is a part of life, it's much more than just a nuisance. In fact, chronic stress can cause these symptoms and conditions:
- Headaches and Migraines. Have you noticed that the muscles in your neck, face, shoulders, and upper back tighten when you're worried or stressed? If the muscles remain tight for a prolonged period of time, you may be more likely to develop tension headaches or migraines.
- Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ). Tight jaw muscles can cause or worsen TMJ, a condition that affects the hinge joints on either side of your jaw. In addition to pain, TMJ can cause jaw stiffness, clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing your mouth, difficulty chewing, temporary jaw locking, and ear pain.
- Back and Neck Pain. Tight muscles can eventually pull on the vertebrae in your back, causing a subluxation, or spinal misalignment. Misalignments may also occur due to falls, lifting heavy items, or poor posture. Subluxations may weaken nearby muscles, making it easier to strain them. If bones or muscles press on nerves, you may experience pain that radiates to your arms or legs.
- Stomach Pain. Heartburn and stomach pain are common stress complaints. Thirty-five to 70 percent of people experience functional gastrointestinal disorders at some point in their lives, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Functional gastrointestinal disorders cause pain, bloating, and other symptoms yet aren't related to any physical causes. If you already have gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or another ailment, stress can worsen your condition.
Chronic stress can cause inflammation throughout your body, irritate your nerves, and even affect blood circulation. When you're stressed, your body increases its production of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol, known as the "fight or flight" hormone, helps you prepare to face a challenge or run away from danger. Over time, your cortisol level can drop too low if you're constantly stressed. A low cortisone level can decrease your pain threshold and make it more difficult to manage pain.
Your Chiropractor Can Ease Your Painful Symptoms and Help You Lower Your Stress Level
Prescription medications are certainly effective in reducing stress but may cause unpleasant side effects. If you're looking for a drug-free way to control your stress, chiropractic offers the perfect solution.
Spinal manipulations, or adjustments, realign your spine, correcting subluxations. Realigning your spine also helps ease muscle tension and reduces pressure on nerves, ligaments, and tendons.
Improving blood flow, one of the benefits of chiropractic treatment, promotes healing of painful areas and may also help your brain reset itself after a stressful day.
Stomach pain, indigestion, and heartburn may occur if your nerve function is affected due to subluxations. Realigning your spine improves nerve function, which may help you reduce stress-related stomach pain.
Soft tissue mobilization and massage, two chiropractic therapies, loosen tight muscles and get rid of painful knots in your muscles. These therapies also trigger the production of serotonin and endorphin, two hormones that reduce stress and help you feel calm and relaxed.
If stress-related headaches and migraines are a common problem, regular chiropractic sessions can help you keep pain under control and reduce the number of headaches you experience every month.
Treatments are just as effective for back and neck pain caused by stress. In addition to performing spinal manipulations and other treatments, your chiropractor can also teach you exercises that will help you improve your posture and reduce the effects of stress on your body. He or she may also recommend stress relief techniques and dietary changes that will enhance your physical and mental health.
American Stress Institute: 42 Worrying Workplace Stress Statistics, 3/25/19
Physical Therapy: Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation, 12/14
The American Institute of Stress: 50 Common Signs and Symptoms of Stress
U.S. News & World Report: Surprise: Chiropractors Can Treat These 5 Conditions, 11/30/15