Chronic Pain & Anxiety

Chronic Pain Often Leads to Chronic Anxiety

Nobody wants to experience pain. Whether acute or chronic, pain impacts the lives of millions. In the United States alone, there are 50 million adults who currently live with chronic pain. Those suffering from chronic pain often feel as though they no longer have control in their lives. Much of what they do is dictated by their pain. Everyday activities become difficult, if not impossible. Chronic pain drastically reduces the quality of life of millions. Not only does chronic pain lead to obvious physical symptoms, but it also impacts your brain and mental health.

Your brain and your body are fundamentally connected. After all, your body sends your brain signals through your nervous system, which tells the brain something is wrong, thus creating the sensation of pain. Chronic pain changes how your brain functions. Unsurprisingly, your mental health is often affected by chronic pain. This pain often leads to increased feelings of depression and anxiety.

When someone is faced with the challenges of living with chronic pain, having to navigate the medical world, the stress of learning how to manage daily life, and the changes to their body, they have an increased risk of anxiety or anxiety disorders. Patients feel more stressed and worried when living with chronic pain. However, anxiety nor mental health receives the emphasis it deserves in pain management. If you suffer from chronic pain that has caused increased feelings of anxiety, contact Texas Partners Healthcare Group today.

Types of Chronic Pain

The difference between acute pain and chronic pain is that acute pain typically goes away shortly after an injury or condition has healed, while chronic pain persists even after an injury has healed. Pain that lasts over 12 weeks is considered chronic pain. What makes chronic pain so difficult to diagnose and treat is that there is a plethora of conditions and injuries that lead to it. No two cases are the same.

Some of the most common types of chronic pain include:

As you can see, chronic pain comes in many forms. Pain felt in one part of your body may be the result of a problem somewhere else in your body, making it more difficult to find the true root of your pain. This can be frustrating and stressful for a patient, which only increases feelings of anxiety.

Chronic Pain and Anxiety

For the longest time, researchers believed that psychological factors linked pain and anxiety. However, as time has passed, and researchers have learned more, the connection between pain, anxiety, and depression has become more apparent. Biological factors often play a part, as well.

Researchers have discovered over the years just how intertwined our brain and our bodies are. When you are anxious, your nervous system is in a heightened state of alarm. This explains why pain and anxiety are so connected.

Pain is your body’s way of telling your brain something is wrong. When your body feels pain, your nervous system sends signals to your brain, eliciting the same fight-or-flight response as anxiety. These signals make your body more aware, increasing the reactivity of the body, along with your heart rate, blood pressure, and more. However, it also causes your body to focus on the danger at hand, which, in this case, is your pain. You are continually focusing on your pain, as it continues to send signals to the brain. This focus forces an individual’s attention to their pain and nothing else. They begin to worry more about how their pain is affecting them and how they can avoid feeling more pain.

The Nervous System

The body’s nervous system links chronic pain and anxiety. Both anxiety and chronic pain activate your body’s nervous system. Your brain continually receives signals. When this occurs, your nervous system is stuck in a constant state of reactivity. Regardless if you had chronic pain or anxiety first, each makes the other worse.

This state is associated with a condition known as central sensitization, which occurs when acute pain becomes chronic pain. Because anxiety also sends signals the same way pain does, it often becomes tied to this pain.

People with chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety. Further research also shows that 30-50% of those with chronic pain also struggle with depression or anxiety. As you can see, the connection between the two is strong.

Signs of Anxiety in Chronic Pain Patients

  • Constant worrying about physical health
  • Lack of sleep due to worrying and fear
  • Nightmares about physical health
  • Experiencing panic attacks due to their condition
  • Struggling to discuss their condition
  • Avoiding pain management treatments that cause anxiety
  • Isolation
  • Constant thoughts of death
  • Irritation

Treatments

Fortunately for patients suffering from chronic pain and anxiety, the Frisco pain management team at Texas Partners Healthcare Group offers a host of treatment options to help you manage your symptoms for both. Some of these treatments include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): As we mentioned in blogs in the past, CBT focuses on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and sensations are all connected. As you can see from the evidence about the nervous system we provided, this is true. Not only does CBT help with symptoms of depression and anxiety, but it’s also proven to be an effective psychotherapy for pain management.
  • Exercise: Many patients avoid physical activity because they believe it will lead to a flare-up in their symptoms. However, exercise can help relieve both symptoms of pain and anxiety. Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the body, such as endorphins, which boost your mood. Yoga and physical therapy have also proven effective in treating pain.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a relaxation practice that asks an individual to clear their mind and focus on the present, who they are, what they are feeling, and to not overreact to the world around them. It clears your mind, reducing your stress and worries. It also relaxes your muscles.
  • Medication: While some individuals take separate medications for their pain and anxiety, there may be some that can help both together. If no other treatment options work for you, consult with your Frisco pain management providers to learn more.

Anxiety and chronic pain are intrinsically connected. It’s common to experience one with the other, increasing the severity of each. However, you do have options. The Frisco pain management providers at Texas Partners Healthcare Group are here to help. Give us a call to learn what your options are.