Is Stress Causing Your Pain?

Your struggle with depression, anxiety, exacerbation of eating disorders or increased sensitivity to acute and chronic pain could all be due to stress.  Stress could be the major player in your battle with pain.

Chronic stress can lead to a myriad of symptoms and leave you with pain.

I see a lot of patients each day in my practice that have suffered with chronic pain for months or years.  They have tried the novel blockbuster drugs, the injections, the surgeries, the psychoanalysis and on and on and on.  Unfortunately for these patients, many practitioners neglect to evaluate (or in some cases refuse to accept) the component of an abnormal stress response in a patient’s pain condition.

So what is the connection?  Chronic stress depletes serotonin making all of your serotonergic pathways (those biochemical pathways that require serotonin to function) ineffective.  One of the most important of these pathways is the inhibition (blocking) of pain and the ability to support good mood.  When you are stressed, your body increases its use of serotonin.  At the same time it increases the breakdown of tryptophan in the liver.  Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin.

Serotonin is also the precursor to melatonin which helps us sleep at night.  Poor sleep is very inflammatory and makes chronic pain issues worse.  So now you have this vicious cycle occurring all started chronic stress.  So in order to stop the cycle, you have to attack the start of the cycle and that is the abnormal stress response.

You can patch up the breaks in the pathways that aren’t working, but if you don’t remove the cause of the problem the patches won’t last.  Part of the benefits of 5-HTP supplementation (precursor to serotonin) is derived from the increased production of melatonin which has known antioxidant effects, supports immune function, and preserves mitochondrial function.

Serotonin plays a key role in the central processing of pain.  When serotonin is deficient you will feel pain more readily than you should.  This is one key reason that anti-depressants are used for chronic pain, however, they only work for a short time.  Tomorrow I will discuss why failing to look at the whole picture will cause your anti-depressants to fail.

So what are some steps to resolving this problem?

  1. Know your Stress Subtype.  A simple questionnaire can help you identify which of 6 major stress types you are and help develop a stress management program designed for you.
  2. Measure your stress hormones with an Adrenal Stress Index if necessary.
  3. Take your fish oil.  Fish oil can positively impact serotonin pathways.
  4. Supplement with 5-HTP and combined methyl supports.  You will want to work with a doctor knowledgeable about supplementation, dosing, and timing of supplementation to get the best results.

If you are suffering with chronic pain have your stress response evaluated and treated properly.  Stop letting stress be the source of your pain!

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