Chronic pain causes daily discomfort and can impact daily activities. Beyond the immediate effects of chronic pain on the body that are felt and obvious, what does it do on the inside and to your immune system?
Researchers have seen in studies that chronic pain, defined as pain signals that continue for weeks, months or years, and ongoing stress can make an impact on the immune system. What has been found is this: chronic pain can prompt changes in the ways that DNA is marked in your T cells, which are your special immune cells. It is not clear how or why chronic pain changes how your T cells fight infection, but there does seem to be a link between chronic pain and these DNA marker changes.
Obviously, dealing with pain can also spur stress responses in your body. When your pain is ongoing, it may keep your body in a state of long-term stress. Your body’s stress response brings together neurologic, endocrine and immune system changes that arise to deal with an anticipated threat or danger. When your body is in this state on a persistent level, it can prompt your levels of the hormone cortisol to rise. When your cortisol level remains at a higher level for too long, it can prompt a decline in your immune system functions. This connection has been seen by physicians and in research.
Chronic diseases that affect the immune system have also been associated with chronic pain. Your stress response and being inactive, due to barriers that your pain causes, can be a perfect storm for developing heart disease, diabetes or other chronic diseases. Being as healthy as possible can also cycle down your stress response and break you out of a cortisol-increasing cycle.
Limiting the effects of chronic pain can decrease your body’s response to stress and keep cortisol levels lower. You can do this by implementing relaxation techniques, such as daily breathing exercises or meditation. Physical exercise, gentle yoga, connecting to the outdoors and engaging in any activity that you enjoy can all help you feel calmer and keep your stress levels lower. Making meditation and exercise a habit are key to working on your daily stress level.
Our team of physicians at Pain Control Associates specializes in chronic pain and conditions. Our focus is on helping you live your best life by integrating the tools we have on hand, including medication, behavior modification, electrical stimulation and other pain management techniques. We will listen intently to your health history, previous surgeries or accidents and current pain issues before developing a personalized treatment plan for you. We treat those with back and neck pain, neuropathy and sciatica as well as those who have been in an auto accident or have experienced a work-related injury. Connect with us through our online contact form.
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