chronic pain and stress management

If you have lived with chronic pain in your life, then you probably already understand that stress can worsen your pain symptoms.  You should already know that your chronic pain can produce stress and that stress can intensify pain episodes, leading to a vicious cycle. If you haven’t already adopted a stress and pain management system, you should investigate how chronic pain and stress interact with you personally and find some effective management tools.

Although the exact mechanism is not fully understood, our best theory suggests that stress triggers changes in our hormone and nervous systems. Among the neurochemicals that are produced during a stress response are cytokines which exacerbate inflammation. Inflammation can often make many pain conditions like arthritis or back pain worse by producing pressure on the damaged tissue.  Stress may also increase muscle tension which is a symptom of many chronic pain conditions.

You can counteract the effects of chronic pain and stress in a number of ways. The most important is to adjust your lifestyle to minimize stress. This can be achieved in many ways, but it begins with an honest, accurate appraisal of your life. Pinpoint the stressful things in your life so that you can design a pain management strategy.

Learn how to avoid or cope with stress triggers

If you can avoid stress triggers, then, of course, you should do your best to do so. If they are unavoidable, then you may have to adjust your personal response to them. Cognitive behavioral therapy may be extremely helpful in analyzing your responses to chronic pain and stress, as well as developing coping strategies. This counselling therapy is a powerful and effective solution that not only helps you minimize your stress but can also reduce the intensity of any pain symptoms.

Relax with Tai Chi or yoga

In addition to minimizing stress points in your life, you can also take active steps to adopt a more relaxed lifestyle.  Many chronic pain sufferers engage in Tai Chi or yoga to improve circulation, boost endorphin production and minimize stress.  These low impact exercise programs enhance both physical and mental wellbeing.

Adopt a healthy diet and exercise program

Exercise in moderation should be an important component of your life, but it should be coupled with a healthy diet.  You should discuss your diet with your physician to determine if any changes should be made. In general, you should eat fresh, avoiding fatty, sugary foods in order to minimize inflammation. Protein should make up the bulk of meals, while carbohydrates should be limited.  Many physicians also recommend foods high in antioxidants like berries and nuts. Do your best to eliminate tobacco, alcohol and caffeine from your diet.


If you don’t see an improvement in your stress levels after trying these stress and pain management methods, then you may need to consider medications. Many antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft can ease stress by inhibiting the absorption of serotonin in the brain; serotonin is a key neurotransmitter that enhances your brain’s performance and mood. It may take several weeks after you start taking the drugs to notice any difference in moods.

If you would like to learn more or schedule an appointment, contact Colorado Pain Care today!


Article written by: Dr Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.