Cutting Edge Psychology

Stress & Chronic Pain

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 7:50 PM

Plenty of people suffering from chronic pain report an increasing intensity with stressful experiences. Researchers have recently revealed a link between stress and its interfering effects on the natural endogenous opioid system which, when functioning well, can decrease the experience of pain (click on the article link below). The take away message of this research is that people who are suffering from chronic pain can decrease the intensity of the pain by engaing in daily relaxation exercises. Also, 'dealing with' stressful situations is an effective strategy in decreasing the stress in the long run. Whether these be current relationship problems, vocational problems, or other current life issues, engaging in effective problem solving is a sensible way of reducing the stress.

But current events can often be experienced as stressful because the person has become sensitised to the issues via years of difficult experiences (eg. a toilet seat left up may seem inocuous, however in the context of a 20 year relationship where one party has felt continually disrespected, the toilet seat can take on huge proportions); and current events may also be cues or triggers to past traumas (eg. news reports of child sexual abuse cases can remind a person of their own abuse and send them into a stressful and upset state). In such cases, the person is still likely to benefit from daily relaxation exercises, however strategies to deal with the deeper underlying issues are also important to assist the person towards healing rather than just counteracting the stressors. Approaches like EMDR therapy are excellent at helping to heal traumas from past experiences; and Coherence Therapy is excellent at helping a person make sense of the factors involved in their stress, thereby helping them to resolve the issues through greater awareness (see links from my homepage to both EMDR and Coherence Therapy).

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