Stress and it’s Influence on Pain
The Complex Interplay Between Stress and Pain
The Biopsychosocial Model
The biopsychosocial model recognises that pain is not simply a physical sensation, but is also influenced by psychological and social factors. These factors can include a person’s beliefs and attitudes about pain, their emotional state, and the social context in which they experience pain. The biopsychosocial model suggests that all of these factors interact to contribute to the experience of pain.
Stress and Pain
Stress is a common experience that can have a significant impact on our physical and mental health. Stress can be defined as the body’s response to a perceived threat or challenge. This response involves the release of stress hormones, which can have a range of effects on the body.
One way in which stress can influence pain is through its effects on the nervous system. When we experience stress, the body’s stress response can activate the sympathetic nervous system, which is involved in the body’s fight or flight response. This can lead to an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. These physical changes can contribute to the experience of pain, as they can increase sensitivity to pain signals.
Stress can also have psychological effects that can influence pain. For example, stress can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, which can make pain feel more intense. Stress can also lead to a decrease in mood and an increase in negative thoughts, which can make it more difficult to cope with pain.
Understanding Stress and Pain within the Biopsychosocial Model
Within the biopsychosocial model, stress can be understood as a psychological factor that can influence the physical experience of pain. Stress can interact with other factors, such as a person’s beliefs and attitudes about pain, to influence how pain is experienced. For example, if a person believes that stress makes their pain worse, this belief can contribute to a cycle where stress leads to increased pain, which in turn leads to more stress.
Similarly, social factors can interact with stress and pain. For example, social support can help to buffer the effects of stress on pain. Conversely, social isolation can increase the impact of stress on pain.
Managing Stress to Reduce Pain
Given the complex interaction between stress and pain, it is important to manage stress in order to reduce the impact of pain. There are a range of strategies that can be helpful in managing stress, including:
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help to reduce stress and improve mood, which can have a positive impact on pain.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing, can help to reduce stress and increase feelings of relaxation.
- Social support: Building and maintaining social connections can provide a buffer against the negative effects of stress.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can help to change negative thought patterns and beliefs about pain, which can in turn reduce the impact of stress on pain.
The biopsychosocial model provides a helpful framework for understanding the complex interplay between stress and pain. By recognising the role of psychological and social factors in pain, we can develop strategies to manage stress and reduce its impact on pain. With a holistic approach to pain management, we can improve both physical and mental well-being, and enhance our overall quality of life.
Lachie Stewart – BeFit Training Physio Double Bay
Lachie Stewart is a physiotherapist based in Double Bay in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Lachie has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. Lachie specialises in Sports injuries, headaches and ACL rehabilitation. To book a consultation, click the link below.