The Impact of Stress on Chronic Pain Symptoms

Chronic Pain Patient

Stress can have a significant influence on our day-to-day lives. When we’re under stress, our body produces a hormone called cortisol that has consequences even for healthy people. Those struggling with chronic pain are even more affected by stress cortisol. It can aggravate their symptoms and increase their severity and frequency. Stress has been a growing problem in recent years, driven by struggles with financial instability, unemployment, and the economic forces at work. Managing stress is essential to managing chronic pain and improving our overall health.


The Influence Of Stress On Chronic Pain Symptoms

Stress is both a concept and a medical reality. We experience stress when factors beyond our control impact us. These can be due to the loss of a career or the death of a loved one, or persistent pain, among countless other factors. Even joyful events can be accompanied by feelings of stress, such as getting a vital promotion or experiencing the birth of a child. 

Stress impacts our chronic pain as the result of two different factors. The first is stress-induced analgesia. This results from the influence of age, pain, and gender on our stress levels. Stress-induced hyperalgesia results from experiencing anxiety, fear, and stress in our lives. Hyperalgesia can increase the intensity of our chronic pain symptoms and make them last longer.

Stress can also significantly impact our mental health, especially when pain is involved. The combination can trigger a condition known as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). This syndrome has three stages that occur after experiencing a stressful event.


These stages are:

  • Stage 1: Alarm Reaction – This reaction causes us to take action to protect ourselves. This is also referred to as our fight or flight response. During this stage, our cortisol levels increase, along with adrenaline, and our pain perception is altered.
  • Stage 2: Resistance – After the initial shock, our bodies often try to rebalance themselves by reducing cortisol production and stabilizing our blood pressure. The body will remain responsive to the cause of the stress if it doesn’t end. This responsiveness often manifests as inattentiveness, irritability, and moodiness.
  • Stage 3: Exhaustion: If the resistance stage is not adequately regulated, the stress will persist, and the body will become exhausted. This can cause physical, mental, and emotional responses such as anxiety, fatigue, lethargy, and depression.


Our body’s nervous system is closely tied to the stress management system. Both our central and peripheral nervous systems work in cooperation with the brain. When these systems come out of balance, they can aggravate chronic pain symptoms.


Reach Out To Delaware Valley Pain & Spine Institute

We can provide helpful strategies for managing your chronic pain and stress levels. Together we can identify your stress points and suggest options for managing or relieving that stress. Start by calling us at (215) 489-9170 and scheduling your first consultation today! Our team will be there as we work together to reduce your symptoms.


Dr. Todd A. Bromberg, M.D. When chronic pain and spinal issues impact your quality of life, you need a team of crack spine and pain specialists at your disposal. Delaware Valley Pain & Spine Institute works with some of the most respected experts in the field to bring pain relief and restored quality of life to patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey!
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