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How Emotion Affects Physical Pain

Updated: Jun 6

By Rui (Natalie) Han, PTA


We’ve all heard about the mind/body connection. But how does the mind/body connection come into play during times of healing? Blame it on your emotions. Emotions can significantly influence how we perceive and experience physical pain.


Our Pain Threshold: Emotions can affect the threshold at which we begin to feel physical pain. For example, when we are in a positive emotional state, our pain threshold may increase, making us less sensitive to pain. Conversely, negative emotions can lower the pain threshold, making us more sensitive to pain.


Our Pain Perception: Emotions can also influence how intensely we perceive pain. Research suggests that emotions such as fear, anxiety, or stress can amplify the perception of pain, making it feel more severe. Conversely, positive emotions such as happiness or relaxation can help reduce the perception of pain.


Our Emotional Coping: How we cope with pain is influenced by our emotional state. For example, someone experiencing chronic pain may feel more distressed and helpless if they are also experiencing depression or anxiety. On the other hand, someone in a positive emotional state may be better able to cope by engaging in activities that distract from the pain.


Our Physiological Response: Emotions trigger physiological responses in the body, such as changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. These physiological responses can either exacerbate or alleviate physical pain. For instance, stress can increase muscle tension, which may worsen pain in conditions affecting the neck and back.


Our Treatment Response: Emotions can also influence how we respond to Pain Management Techniques and treatments. For example, positive emotions can enhance the effectiveness of pain medications or physical therapy treatments, while negative emotions may reduce their efficacy.


Overall, the relationship between emotions and physical pain is complex and bidirectional. Addressing emotional well-being through techniques like relaxation, meditation, and yoga can complement conventional pain management approaches, and improve overall quality of life for individuals dealing with chronic pain.


Here are Relaxation/Meditation apps to try: Insight Timer, BetterSleep, or Calm. But better yet, attend one of the weekend yoga and meditation classes in our Irvine location.

 

About Our CTS Therapist: Natalie Han was born and raised in Beijing, China. To fulfill her calling to help people manage pain, she went to PTA school and graduated as a valedictorian. She has been teaching yoga and meditation classes since 2016.

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