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  • Writer's pictureJoana

The hidden links between chronic pain and anxiety

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Chronic pain and anxiety are two of the most common health issues affecting people across the globe. They are often viewed as separate disorders, as if one was "only' in your mind and the other, in your body. The truth is that the two conditions are quite closely related.

If you are grappling with either chronic pain or anxiety, you may want to know how one condition could affect the other. In this post, let's explore the hidden links between chronic pain and anxiety to help you understand how you might be need to address both at the same time.

Understanding Chronic Pain

A woman feeling pain on her bed.  Chronic pain and anxiety can be debilitating especially as they tend to show up together.  Both processes occur in the brain, and both can be addressed by neurosomatic practices.
A woman is curled up on her bed with chronic pain and anxiety

Chronic pain is defined as pain that lasts for more than three months. The pain can be localized to one area of the body or can be widespread. Chronic pain is notoriously difficult to treat, and it can affect all aspects of daily life.

Research shows that psychological factors (ie your brain!) play a role in the experience of chronic pain. For example, people who are highly anxious or depressed are more likely to experience chronic pain. This is because anxiety and depression can lead to changes in the brain that make people more sensitive to pain signals. Therefore, it is important to address emotional and mental health issues when treating chronic pain.

The Anatomy of Anxiety

Anxiety is a broad label for a group of mental health conditions that involve persistent and excessive worry, fear, or panic. Anxiety disorders can range from generalized anxiety disorder to specific phobias or panic disorder. Anxiety can be caused by many factors, including genetics, past experiences, and current life events.

Anxiety also has a physical effect in the body. This is because anxiety is the body's natural response to danger. When you feel anxious, your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which prepare you to fight or flee. This physical response can also lead to physical symptoms, such as muscle tension, fast heartbeat, and shallow breathing.

Anxiety, chronic stress and chronic pain often go hand in hand with dire consequences for daily life.  There are strategies that can help address both so you can improve your quality of life and recover vitality.
A woman is feeling anxious.

The Relationship between Chronic Pain and Anxiety:

Each condition can cause or worsen the other. This is because the same physiological and psychological responses that occur during anxiety can also exacerbate chronic pain.

When a person is anxious, their muscles become tense, and they may unconsciously clench their jaw or grip their fists. These physical responses can lead to increased muscle tension and trigger points, which can cause or worsen chronic pain. On the other hand, chronic pain can also cause anxiety by making people feel helpless, frustrated, and overwhelmed.

In your brain, there is no difference between a perceived threat and a real threat, an imagined pain and a real one. On the spectrum of stress, any threat or stress to any part of you in experienced the same way, whether "it's in your head" or 'it's in your hip".

Reducing Chronic Pain and Anxiety:

Reducing or managing chronic pain and anxiety can be challenging, but there are many effective approaches. One of the first steps is to address emotional and psychological issues through therapy. This can involve counseling,, or medication to help manage the more serious symptoms of anxiety or depression, or chronic pain. Other approaches to managing chronic pain and anxiety can include physical therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication.

NeuroSomatic Therapy works by addressing all aspects of the spectrum of stress: the brain-based ones and the body-based ones, together., through a combination of modalities for rapid and combined impacts.

It is important to work closely with your healthcare provider to determine the best approach for you.

Tips for Managing Chronic Pain and Anxiety:

If you are struggling with both chronic pain and anxiety, here are a few self-care strategies that can be helpful. Some tips include:

Mindful movement and meditation are two of the best neurosomatic strategies that help reduce or manage chronic pain and anxiety
Mindfulness and meditation

  • Practice heart-focused breathing or heart coherence exercises to calm your mind and body

  • Exercise regularly but always within your zone of comfort to release endorphins and improve mood

  • Get enough of the right kind rest and sleep to reduce stress and anxiety

  • Expose yourself to daylight and go into nature regularly

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet to support body and brain health

  • Stay connected with friends and family to maintain social support

I hope these help! I believe that with the right support, anyone can live a fulfilling and healthy life and recover vitality. Connect today if you want support addressing chronic pain and anxiety.

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