How Stress Relates to Pain

How Stress Relates to Pain 

Ever been in a foreign country and tried to order food off a long, complicated, unfamiliar-looking menu? Did you use hand signals to describe the dish you wanted? Did you whip out your phone and hope Google had the answers? And, in the end, did you just close your eyes and hope that what landed on your plate was pork, not pizza? Yes, this situation can be frustrating, especially when you don’t end up getting what you wanted! This also happens when you’re experiencing chronic pain. Allow us to explain. 

When you’re in pain, your body is frantically trying to get your attention, waving hand signals, pointing at pictures, and speaking in a foreign language because it’s waiting for you to give it what it needs. 

Few of us think of pain as a language, and yet, it is. Pain is a very detailed, specific way of communication. Think of it this way — when you stub your toe, your brain sends a signal to your brain that something is wrong. So, why would it be any different when it comes to chronic pain? From back pain to knee pain, all have one thing in common: they’re signals from the body. 

And if your body is speaking to you — and for some of you reading this, it might be screaming at you — it’s time to take some notice. If you’ve experienced ongoing, debilitating pain – it’s not always easy to listen properly. You search for ways to find temporary relief, ways that don’t interfere too much with your already busy schedule. You might just not be understanding what your body is trying to tell you — and that’s okay. Most people don’t know what to do when they’re faced with a pain problem. And that’s why it’s absolutely vital to take a step back and start looking at one of the most important factors that could be contributing to your pain: stress. 


For some people, general stress can be a motivator, pushing them forward to challenge their professional and personal boundaries. For others — this might not be the case. In fact, there are a lot of people out there who have become unfamiliar with the idea of “me-time” anymore because they’re stretched so thin. It’s easy for us to become so enveloped in our work, family, or other activities that stress goes unnoticed, not realizing what it could be doing to our well-being and our bodies. 

Stress is a bit like moving a bucket of water from one end of a football pitch to the other. Continuously. You’re so focused on moving the bucket over the outer boundary that you don’t feel your knees and back giving way. You just keep going. Eventually, inevitably, the water spills, and you’re left with a mess to clean up. 

What we sometimes don’t take into consideration is — what would happen if we put the bucket down? 

In the case of emotional stress, too, the concept remains the same. Because the brain processes stress as trauma, it, therefore, suffers from the effects of anxiety and stress for a while after the body actually experiences them. Again, this type of stress needs to be dealt with. Action needs to be taken, otherwise, the metaphorical bucket will always be close to tipping. 

It’s very evident in the world today that when you take the time to work on yourself, you feel better. Not only that but when you take much-needed breaks from work and stressful situations and focus on yourself and the things you want to do, your work and productivity actually improve. Despite traditional belief, working yourself down to the core won’t actually make the quality of your work any better – it’ll just leave you feeling stressed and empty. And this is also when your body could be giving you those signals we talked about earlier. 

The pain in your back, knees, ankle, and so forth, is your body telling you that something is very wrong with your routine. That’s when it’s time to listen. Taking a step back, and assessing your habits and your stress levels could be the change you need to finally start feeling good again. 

To summarize, taking the time to take care of yourself will only help you out in the long run. Take much-needed breaks, don’t stretch yourself too thin, and prioritize yourself and your well-being so you can continue to perform your very best and watch the pain fade into the background. 

If you do this and are still experiencing chronic pain – no worries. Here at Progressive Edge Physical Therapy in Union, NJ we specialize in helping people, just like you, reduce their pain so they can get back to living a quality life their way. To learn more about how we can help you win your life back, contact us today! 

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Stress Management – What is it and how to find the cause

Stress is such a buzz-word these days, isn’t it? From detoxing with ‘green juice’ to staring at the sun and meditating for 8 hours a day, so many activities and media campaigns have now become obsessed with tackling this elusive enemy. We can’t avoid the presence of some advert, some poster, some model telling us that her solution is the answer to stress, anxiety, and tension. But, what is the truth? How can we really get to the heart of dealing with stress… and why in the world is it so important to do, anyway? Fear not – in this post we help make sense of all the mixed messages, we go through what stress really means, and, of course, how you can start defeating it in your own life. Ready? Let’s get started.

So, what is stress? Well, on the one hand it’s your mind and body’s response to situations outside of the norm, that is, those circumstances that place pressure on your life in various ways. On the other hand, it can also be the cumulative effect of months and years of daily, gnawing minor problems, all of which culminate in a sense of chronic unease and anxiety. Either way, blood pressure rises, muscles are affected, and eventually your mind and willpower can’t keep up… you have a melt down and drop all of the balls you thought you were juggling so well.

Here’s the thing about stress: mental worry and anxiety translates into physical problems such as back pain, neck pain, and – over time – a host of other more serious issues: high blood pressure, diabetes if you’re not careful, and numerous mental health problems. So, I guess it’s easy to see why ‘stress’ is such a popular topic, right? Ignoring stress leads us down a very dangerous path, one which we won’t be able to get off very easily if we aren’t aware of the pitfalls.

So often, pain is a result of pent up tension in the muscles and surrounding areas caused by… you guessed it… stress. So, if we take a step back and trace the pain back to the root cause, you may be surprised to find that it’s not the position in which you sleep, but rather your lack of sleep that’s causing your neck pain. It may not be your shoulders that are hurting you, but your lack of a decent break from your desk that’s causing the problem. And yes – it may not be the fact that your briefcase is too heavy, it may simply be that you haven’t left it in the office often enough to know that going home to relax may actually be the best thing for it!

It’s extremely important to make time for your mind and body; in other words, don’t let stress win. You see, stress flourishes in an environment that enjoys anxiety and frenzy. Take stock of where you are, right now, and begin deconstructing the way in which you make your life hospitable to stress.

One way in which you may be causing stress to thrive is by not allowing your basic needs to be met. Are you eating well? Is your food nutritious, do you eat away from your desk, do you get enough sleep, drink enough water, and step away from the screen often enough? Are you getting some sunshine and fresh air? These things are incredibly important – your overall wellbeing depends on them.

In addition, are you giving yourself enough time to exercise? I’m not suggesting you train for a marathon, although if you want to… great! What I do want you to focus on, though, is taking 30 minutes a day to energize your body via a little exercise: walking, swimming, jogging, even rollerblading! You need to move so as to release tension and generate endorphins – the happy, stress-pulverizing hormones.

And on that note, are you doing things you love to do? When last have you painted or played that violin? Are you too old for puzzles? I think not! Challenge yourself to do the things you wish you were doing – learn a new skill and ignite a passion for something you didn’t know you loved. There is almost nothing better in the world for the reduction of stress than a committed infatuation with a hobby you love. Go ahead… give the banjo a try!

And please drink enough water. You’re 75% water… you’re basically a fish, so please hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Your muscles need water for healing, your mind needs water to think, your skin needs water to glow, and your blood needs water to purify. There’s truly no better drink you can have – put that energy drink down and head to the tap.

Ok, I mentioned meditation earlier – and though you may not be prepared to do 8 hours, you should certainly strive to breathe deeply, think deeply, and be conscious of your mind and body for 15 – 20 minutes a day. Not only will this time revitalize you, but you’ll begin gaining a deeper and more powerful perspective of every aspect of your life. As you maintain a constant relationship with meditation, the bigger picture will emerge and you’ll find your purpose, motivation, and an inherent clarity of what’s really important in life. And guess what? Stress hates that! If you’re not sure this right for you, though, why not incorporate a therapy session or two, too? You never know – it could change your life.

On that note, if you’ve been dealing with stress for a while now and are feeling the negative effects on your body, please reach out to a physical therapist. Not only will quality, hands-on physical therapy eradicate the pain, but it will give you the best possible foundation to make those right, healthy choices. Remember, pain reinforces stress, so as a means to reducing stress, feeling happier, and making time for yourself, physical therapy is the best choice.

Don’t hesitate when it comes to stress – making decisions that can combat its sometimes heartbreaking effects is absolutely essential. From exercise, through to healthy eating and physical therapy, the choices you make – right now – will pave the way for a brighter, happier, and worry-free future.

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