Health blog

What role can anxiety play in people developing chronic pain?

August 1st, 2022
Anxiety Chronic Pain

Research has shown that chronic pain and anxiety are frequently linked. Pain receptors in the brain alert the body of potential dangers and can trigger a “fight or flight” response. However, when the body’s pain receptors are continuously set off and, in turn, the fight-or-flight response also, a person can develop abnormal adaptations like chronic anxiety and depression. Both physical pain and mental disorders can be disruptive to daily life on their own — especially so when combined.

According to a screening conducted by Mental Health America, 54% of people with chronic pain who participated in the screening showed extreme cases of anxiety. So, what exactly is the relationship between the two?

3 roles anxiety can play in people developing chronic pain

  • Anxiety can hinder rehabilitation — For people who are developing chronic pain, those also experiencing mental health issues, like anxiety, often struggle with rehabilitation. Anxious thoughts can become reflected in behaviors and decrease the effectiveness of rehabilitation.
  • Anxiety can exacerbate symptoms of pain — For those developing symptoms of recurring pain, anxiousness caused by the pain can exacerbate painful feelings. Experiencing a fear of pain can make it worse and more pronounced when it appears. 
  • Anxiety from chronic pain can cause other physical conditions — When your body tenses from anxious thoughts, you can begin to experience other uncomfortable conditions on top of your chronic pain. Muscles in the back and upper extremities can become extremely tight, which can affect joint health. You might experience headaches or migraines. These in conjunction with your chronic pain and anxiety can cause a vicious cycle. 

Rehab Access Physical Therapy can help alleviate symptoms of chronic pain and potentially improve your anxiety

At Rehab Access Physical Therapy, we’re determined to do our best to help you find pain relief for your chronic pain. Our physical therapists are specially trained to be able to identify pain at its source. During physical therapy sessions, our specialists will address and treat your pain. This way, you can improve your quality of life and live with less anxiety over chronic pain.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.