How stress increases pain sensitivity and how to get relief

Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed out, running yourself ragged and burning the candle at both ends that your back pain, neck pain, headaches or knee problems are worse?

Well, there’s a good reason for that.

The fact is that stress can make everything in your life worse, even your pain levels, an inescapable truth that has now been proven thanks to researchers from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center…

Stress and Your Pain Sensitivity

Research in male mice published in the Journal of Neuroscience has shown that when you experience stress, microglia (cells that handle your immune response) in your spinal cord are hyperactivated, increasing your pain sensitivity.

You see, according to the researchers, repeated exposure to stress sets up an inflammatory environment in your spinal cord. As the inflammation abomination grows, more and more microglia in the cord regions involved in pain processing start firing.

And yep, your pain gets worse and worse.

I’m sure you can imagine what happens if that stress goes on long-term as well.

Tame the stress, break the cycle

So, if you want to soothe your pain, you first need to break the cycle of stress that’s making it worse.

Here are some ways to do destress and become pain-free:

#1 – Take a Breath

When I’m stressed, the first thing I do is practice deep breathing using the 4, 7, 8 method.

Simply breathe in for a count of four. Hold for a count of seven. And, exhale for a count of eight.

You’ll be surprised how quickly it slows down your heart rate and thoughts and helps you relax.

#2 – Take a Walk

It can also help to simply get outside and walk away the stress. Not only do you get the benefit of being out in nature, you also get exercise which has proven stress-relieving benefits.

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#3 – Eat Superfoods

And finally, eat foods that help your body deal with and wipe away the effects of stress.

A 2013 study at the University of Otago found that people are calmer, happier and more energetic on days when they eat more fruits and veggies.

And, 2012 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that when people consume greens rich in folate (something your body uses to produce the feel-good chemical, dopamine) they had a lower risk of depression.

So, if you want to lower your stress, getting at least five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day is a must.

#4 – Say Om

Meditation is another great way to lower stress levels and calm both your mind and your body.

Try sitting in a quiet room and focus on your breathing or follow a guided meditation. If your mind wanders, don’t worry. Simply re-center yourself and immerse yourself in the process.

The great thing about meditating is that you don’t have to be perfect, you simply have to be.

#5 – I’m also a big proponent of yoga when it comes to soothing stress.

Taking a yoga class at your local gym or even popping in a DVD to follow at home gives you a dedicated time that’s just for you where you can focus on your breath, relaxation and better health.

Remember, stress is more than a psychological symptom, it actually contributes to physical pain. So, to feel better and live pain-free, follow the five steps above to soothe your stress and om your pain away.

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Stress eating helps when they’re superfoods — CNN Health

Microglia transmit pain to the brain during stress — EurekAlert

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.