Dear Dr. Denny,
Does stress really make pain worse or is it all in my head? It may be my imagination, but when I am having a stressful day every little ache and pain seems to rear its ugly head.

-Stressed Out

Dear Stressed Out,

According to the National Institute of Health, stress related illnesses are the #1 reason for a visit to a health care provider. O.K., that says a lot. The relationship between stress and pain is a funny one, kind of like you and an ex-girlfriend. In a short burst of stress, like your first argument, the chemicals you produce can make you impervious to pain so you can fight or run. (this is a good thing)

Chronic stress, like too much is happening in your life and you are struggling to deal, causes longer term effects of those chemical changes in the body. (this is a bad thing) Those changes include increased muscle tension, increased blood pressure, blood sugar level imbalances, etc… The end result being deterioration your body, mind, and health. You will have more pain amongst other things. Just remember, stress requires your consent.

I’m not a holy roller but one of my favorite Jesus quotes: “Will anxious thinking add even one day to your life?”

– Dr. Lonna Denny