By Dr. Katie Casto, PT, DPT
2020 has been a stressful year for many of us. Dealing with a pandemic, losing loved ones, social isolation, unemployment and countless other stressors have caused many of us to experience unprecedentedly high levels of stress. What do you do for stress management?
As we come into the holiday season, for many, stress levels will increase further. Due to the circumstances it is THAT much more important to take steps to keep stress levels under control. Let’s dig into the WHY & HOW you can stay on top of your stress...
Most of us are aware of the effect of dealing with all the stress of 2020 on our mental health, but did you know it can impact our physical health as well? People with anxiety related disorders are more likely to experience poor physical health, cardiovascular diseases and premature mortality vs. the general population (Kandola et al., 2018). Experiencing stress for a prolonged period of time or at high levels can impact how our bodies experience pain - it can cause a pain experience, intensify pain you may already be feeling, or cause pain to be longer lasting (ie.chronic pain).
How does stress actually affect pain?
Experiencing stress can be a protective mechanism for us, however it can also be harmful. Let me explain.
What factors contribute to causing stress that may lead to a dysfunctioning pain system?
Anything that causes stress can eventually lead to cortisol dysfunction if the response is large enough for a long enough period of time (Hannibal and Bishop, 2014). Factors that are related to pain and not related to pain (general life events) can cause stress. These factors often play a role after an injury has occurred, and can amplify and prolong the pain response.
Pain related factors:
Stress is a part of life. Some things we can control and other things we cannot. We want to be able to address the things we can change (like maladaptive beliefs, for example) and manage our overall stress level so that we can avoid negative health consequences.
How can I manage my stress levels, and how can Physical Therapists help?
If you need help figuring out what to do for your particular stress OR you need an accountability partner, speak with a PT to learn more about how we may be able to help with your individual needs.
Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2014 Dec;94(12):1816-25. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20130597. Epub 2014 Jul 17. PMID: 25035267; PMCID: PMC4263906.
Kandola A, Vancampfort D, Herring M, Rebar A, Hallgren M, Firth J, Stubbs B. Moving to Beat Anxiety: Epidemiology and Therapeutic Issues with Physical Activity for Anxiety. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Jul 24;20(8):63. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0923-x. PMID: 30043270; PMCID: PMC6061211.
Saeed SA, Cunningham K, Bloch RM. Depression and Anxiety Disorders: Benefits of Exercise, Yoga, and Meditation. Am Fam Physician. 2019 May 15;99(10):620-627. PMID: 31083878.
Meet Your Therapist
Jessica has been in Austin, TX for the past four years. She grew up in Idaho and attended PT school at Idaho State University. She completed an Orthopaedic Residency and became a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist in 2016.