Chronic Stress, Chronic Pain & Inflammation Relationship

Does chronic stress cause chronic pain? Does chronic pain increase stress? What causes inflammation?

Research shows chronic pain and dysfunction lead to chronic stress. Pain is often considered the ultimate stressor. Chronic pain may be accompanied by inflammation and/or possibly neuroinflammation.[1]

Chronic Stress, Chronic Pain, Inflammation & The Immune System

How Does Chronic Stress, Chronic Pain & Inflammation Affect the Immune System?

Research shows that chronic low cortisol levels, from chronic pain and inflammation, result in improper immune function and increased risk of infection and some forms of cancer.[1]

How Does The Stress Response Work?

Pain and inflammation send stress signals to the brain’s stress centers which activate the “stress response” which results in the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol.

What Is Cortisol & What Does It Do?

Cortisol is an end product of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) stimulation. Often called an “axis”, this biologic system is stimulated by any inflammatory, emotional, or physical stress. When pain occurs, the axis is stimulated, causing corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), catecholamines, and serum cortisol to rise.[1]

How Does Cortisol Affect Immune Function?

In acute inflammation, cortisol is needed as part of the inflammatory healing response. The natural purpose of elevated cortisol is activation of the body’s immune defenses and healing to eliminate the cause of pain and facilitate tissue recovery.

When inflammation and pain become chronic, the production of cortisol is reduced to the point that proper healing and proper control of inflammation and pain cannot occur which leads to even worse chronic pain and inflammation. Further, chronic low cortisol levels, from chronic pain and inflammation, result in improper immune function and increased risk of infection and some forms of cancer.[1]

Signs & Symptoms of Chronic Pain, Chronic Stress, Inflammation & Reduced Immune Function

Chronic Pain Symptoms

Chronic pain symptoms can include:

  • Low back pain
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches
  • Burning or tingling pain in different parts of the body
  • Jolts of sharp pain

Chronic Stress Symptoms

Chronic stress symptoms can include:

  • Irritability, which can be extreme
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating, or an inability to do so
  • Rapid, disorganized thoughts
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Digestive problems
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling helpless
  • A perceived loss of control
  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Nervousness
  • Frequent infections or illnesses

Inflammation Symptoms

Inflammation symptoms can include:

  • Redness
  • Swollen joint that’s sometimes warm to the touch
  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Loss of joint function
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue/loss of energy
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Arthritis
  • Mouth sores
  • Rashes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain

Signs of a Weak Immune System

Signs of a weak immune system can include:

  • High stress levels
  • Frequently sick, usually with colds or the flu
  • Digestive issues (diarrhea, gas, cramping, nausea, constipation, or loss of appetite)
  • Slow wound healing
  • Frequent infections
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Blood disorders

Spinal Health Is Key For Proper Immune Function & Reducing Chronic Stress, Chronic Pain & Inflammation

Importance of Spinal Health For Chronic Stress, Chronic Pain, Inflammation & Immune Function

Chiropractic care is not a treatment for high cortisol or immune system dysfunction, however, it is an evidence-based and effective way to resolve spinal inflammation and pain which can contribute to these issues. Talk to your local Fort Collins chiropractor at Square ONE to discuss your symptoms and treatment options.

Relief From Chronic Stress, Chronic Pain & Inflammation Without Medication in Fort Collins

Chiropractic care is an evidence-based and effective way to resolve spinal inflammation and pain. Square ONE uses a highly personalized and comprehensive approach that centers on Chiropractic BioPhysics, the most proven therapy for non-surgical spine correction. Square ONE offers chiropractic care to the Fort Collins area. Square ONE has treatment options for pain relief, spine correction and structural restoration and wellness care for those seeking to continue to function at optimal levels once their problem is corrected.

[1] Tennant, F. (2017) Cortisol Screening in Chronic Pain Patients. Practical Pain Management. Vol 12, Issue 1

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